Court Permanently Bans Principals From Marketing Career Services
The Federal Trade Commission has won a $28 million judgment against an Indiana-based operation that fraudulently offered employment with the U.S. Postal Service. A federal district court magistrate judge has permanently banned William Tankersley and his eight corporations from marketing career advisory goods and services, engaging in telemarketing, and misrepresenting any material fact regarding any employment program or employment with the U.S. Postal Service. The court entered judgments against Tankersley and the other defendants for $28,149,600, the amount of consumer injury they caused.
"People looking for honest work with the Postal Service or another government agency should never have to pay for information about a job," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The plain truth is, if you want a job with the government, call the agency you want to work for. It's the best source for the most current hiring information -- and it's free."
"The U.S. Postal Service is pleased with the outcome of the case against Think Achievement, Inc., and will continue to work closely with the FTC in a joint effort to stamp out fraudulent claims by individuals and companies regarding postal employment and postal exam Test 470," said Mary Anne Gibbons, Vice President and General Counsel of the U.S. Postal Service. "Both our attorneys and our Human Resources personnel have been actively working with the FTC to pursue these individuals and companies to the fullest extent of the law."
In January 1998, as part of a joint FTC and Postal Service law enforcement sweep aimed at stopping private companies from falsely promising Postal Service jobs at generous wages, the FTC sued Tankersley, Think Achievement Corporation, National Answering Service, Inc., New Age Advertising Corp., H.D. Davidson Advertising Corp., The Answering Service, Inc., The Rosewood Group, Career Advancement Corp., Information Delivery Systems, Inc., Patricia Harris, Harry Brankle, Sena Rager, Tillwanner Jackson, Jill Robinson, Ferron Harris, and Steven Stucker, and relief defendant Linda Tankersley The FTC's complaint charged that the defendants misrepresented:
- their affiliation with or endorsement by the U.S. Postal Service;
- that permanent positions with the Postal Service were available in the geographic areas where they placed classified ads, and that the Postal Service was offering the exams for those positions;
- that consumers who purchased and reviewed the defendants' materials were likely to achieve high scores on the exam for postal jobs and likely to obtain permanent positions with the Postal Service within a short period of time; and
- that they paid full refunds to all consumers who requested them.
The FTC asked for, and the court granted, a temporary restraining order that, among other things, froze the defendants' assets and appointed a receiver to manage the corporate defendants.
In June 1999, the FTC filed for summary judgment against Tankersley and the corporations (the FTC previously reached settlements with the other defendants). The District Court granted the motion finding that the "evidence demonstrates that the Defendants operated a coordinated advertising, telemarketing, and mailing operation to defraud job-seeking consumers nationwide." Magistrate Judge Theresa L. Springmann issued the Decision and Order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, on October 18, 2000.
In addition to the $28 million judgment and the ban on telemarketing and marketing career advisory goods and services, the court barred the defendants from misrepresenting any material fact regarding any employment program, and prohibited them from falsely representing the terms and conditions of any refund policy; any material fact regarding employment with the Postal Service, employment opportunities with any federal, state or local government agency, or any other type of employment listings; and any material fact regarding any good or service sold or offered for sale. Further, the court's order prohibits the defendants from assisting others who are engaged in telemarketing or the business of marketing career advisory goods and services, and prohibits the defendants from selling, transferring, leasing, renting or otherwise disclosing their customer lists.
The court ordered all of the defendants' assets and the assets of Linda Tankersley, Tankersley's wife who was named as a relief defendant, turned over to the FTC. Further, the court appointed a permanent receiver to take control of all corporate and personal assets identified during the course of the litigation to ensure that the maximum amount of funds for consumer redress is available to the FTC. It is not yet clear how much money will actually be available for redress.
The other defendants in this case, Patricia Harris, Harry Brankle, Sena Rager, Tillwanner Jackson, Jill Robinson, Ferron Harris, and Steven Stucker, previously settled the FTC's charges. Those settlements included permanent bans on telemarketing and marketing career advisory goods and services, and the turnover of approximately $230,000 to the FTC.
Meanwhile, William Tankersley still faces criminal charges. In November 1999, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Hammond, Indiana on two counts of criminal contempt of court. The temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctions obtained by the FTC against him froze all of his assets. In violation of those orders, Tankersley allegedly sold a $213,000 yacht and attempted to send the proceeds to an account in the Bahamas. His trial is scheduled for December 2000.
Copies of the court's order, previous documents related to this case and Operation "Stamp Out Job Fraud," are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.
Consumers who have concerns regarding advertisements about postal employment and exam materials should contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Postal Service's law enforcement branch (local offices are listed in the blue pages of the phone book). Consumers can obtain a copy of the FTC's consumer brochure on Federal and Postal Job Fraud from the web site at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/fedjobs.htm
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(Civil Action No.: 2:98-CV-12-TS)
(FTC Matter No.: X98 0009)