The marketers of a work-at-home scam who led consumers to believe they could earn $500 or more per week processing medical bills and would receive training and access to customers have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their deceptive claims violated federal law. The settlements bar future violations and require them to pay more than $15,000 in consumer redress.
The FTC sued the defendants in February 2005 as part of “Project Biz Opp Flop,” a crackdown on deceptive business opportunity and work-at-home schemes. The defendants agreed to a court order that barred them from further violations and froze their assets. Subsequently, the defendants were found to be in contempt for violating the order.
The settlement with Chris Taylor and Medical Billers Network Inc. (MBN) bars them from misrepresenting material facts in any medical billing employment opportunity, work-at-home opportunity, or business venture, and from making earnings claims without a reasonable basis and supporting materials.
Taylor and MBN are also barred from misrepresenting material facts in the sale of any goods or services, such as the total cost; any restrictions, limitations, or conditions; and the nature or terms of a refund, cancellation, exchange, or repurchase policy. They are also prohibited from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, including failing to disclose any refund, no-refund, cancellation, exchange, or repurchase policy before a customer pays.
The settlement with Wilson Jose Caceres and Caceres Quality Distribution Inc. (CQD) permanently bans Caceres from marketing or selling any medical billing employment opportunity, work-at-home opportunity, or business venture. In addition, Caceres and CQD are prohibited from misrepresenting material facts in the sale of any goods or services, violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and failing to disclose any refund, no-refund, cancellation, exchange, or repurchase policy before a customer pays.
The settlement with Taylor and MBN imposes a $4 million judgment against them and a $840,000 judgment against relief defendant Knarek Kalantaryan. The settlement with Caceres and CQD also imposes a $4 million judgment. The judgments are suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay. The full judgments will be imposed if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. Under the settlements, Taylor and Caceres must pay the FTC about $15,000 in ill-gotten gains.
The settlements bar the defendants from selling or otherwise disclosing personal information about anyone who paid them. The settlements also contain record-keeping and reporting provisions to allow the FTC to monitor compliance with the orders.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the proposed stipulated final orders was 4-0. The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
NOTE: Stipulated court orders are for settlement purposes only and do not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
(FTC File No. X050036)
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