Two central players in an Orlando-based telemarketing ring charged by the Federal Trade Commission in June of 1996 with deceptively marketing employment services have agreed to stay out of all job placement and telemarketing businesses permanently as part of settlements they signed to end the FTC litigation. Dennis R. Bell and Marilyn Naylor Koblasz were officers for Metro Data, Inc., a telemarketing operation named in the FTC's Project "Career Sweep," an enforcement effort targeting fraudulent employment services scams that charge consumers up-front fees in return for "special access" to specific job openings, but which typically provide little if anything of value.
In the Metro Data case, the FTC charged the defendants -- the company, also known as Metro Dade, and its officers Bell, Koblasz and Katherine M. Howard, also known as Cassandra Stone -- with falsely representing that they had arrangements with employers nationwide to "pre-screen" or "pre-qualify" candidates to fill job vacancies. According to the FTC, they charged $495 for these services, and induced consumers to send checks or give their credit card numbers to Metro Data, and allegedly promised not to cash the checks or charge consumers' accounts for 30 days, during which consumers could cancel their memberships. In fact, the FTC charged, Metro Data had no relationships with prospective employers, and the company typically cashed consumers' checks or charged their accounts immediately, refused to cancel memberships, and routinely denied requests for refunds. (In Dec. 1996, defendant Katherine Howard reached a settlement with the FTC to end its litigation against her.)
In two separate settlements, which require the court's approval, Bell and Koblasz would be permanently barred from offering any job placement services and from engaging in any telemarketing business, or from assisting others engaged in telemarketing or the job placement field. The settlements also contain specific prohibitions on the types of false claims allegedly made by the defendants regarding their financial practices, including their refund policies, use of consumers' financial information, and unauthorized charging of consumers' accounts. The settlements also would prohibit the defendants from making any false representations material to a consumer's decision to purchase job placement services and telemarketing in general.
In addition, the proposed consent orders would bar Bell and Koblasz from selling or otherwise transferring any customer lists developed in the course of marketing Metro Data's services.
The order with defendant Bell calls for a money judgment in the amount of $77,424.27, the estimated amount of consumer injury. Payment of this judgment will be suspended based on his financial disclosure document filed with the FTC. The order with defendant Koblasz requires her to pay a modest $864.43 for restitution, and binds her to a promise to cooperate fully with the FTC in preparing for any trial in this matter. Both orders permit the FTC to reopen the matter if either defendant made material misrepresentations or omissions regarding his or her financial status.
Finally, the proposed consent orders contain various recordkeeping and recording provisions that would assist the FTC in monitoring Bell's and Koblasz's compliance.
The Commission vote to approve the settlements for filing in court was 4-0. The consent orders for permanent injunction as to Bell and Koblas were filed on November 25, 1997, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division.
NOTE: These consent orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Consent orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the proposed settlements and other documents associated with Project "Career Sweep," are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC Matter No. X960112)
(Civil Action No. 96-641-ORL-22)