As part of its ongoing "Project $cholar$cam," an effort to combat fraudulent scholarship promotion schemes, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has settled a complaint against Deco Consulting Services, Inc., Unimark Industries, Inc., Dania Denis and Jose M. "Jesse" Nieves. In addition to permanently barring Nieves from engaging in any telemarketing, Nieves and Denis are permanently barred from the promotion, advertising, marketing, sale or offering for sale of scholarship search services. The settlement also includes a $100,000 judgment against the Florida-based defendants that would be used to pay court-approved fees and any possible consumer redress.
In its complaint, the FTC alleged that from 1990 until October 1996, the defendants conducted a fraudulent program to telemarket college scholarship services to high school and college students and their parents throughout the United States.
In addition to misrepresenting that students would receive a specified amount in scholarships or grants, the FTC said Denis and Nieves falsely represented that they would refund the service fee to those who did not obtain scholarships or grants by using their services.
The FTC launched "Project $cholar$cam" in September 1996 to counter those who fraudulently take advantage of the public's concerns about rising education costs. For example, fraudulent scholarship search services often promise "free money for college" in campus newspaper ads, flyers, post cards, and on the Internet, and charge from $10 to $400 for their services. Often the purported scholarships identified by these services are either loan programs or contests.
In addition to filing charges in federal district court against firms that are misrepresenting their services, "Project $cholar$cam" includes a major campaign to educate consumers about these schemes. As of November 1997, the FTC had distributed 2.9 million pieces of consumer education material about "Project $cholar$cam," including posters, bookmarks, and flyers that have been circulated to college financial aid offices, high school guidance counselors, state grant and aid program administrators, and college book stores nationwide. These materials are available on the FTC's web site at: http://www.ftc.gov (no period).
The Commission vote to authorize filing of the settlement was 4-0. The Court approved the settlement and it was entered in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division, on December 11, 1997.
NOTE: This consent degree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Consent decrees are subject to court approval and have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the proposed settlement, as well as previous documents regarding this case, are available from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580;202-326-3128; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC 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 (no period).
(FTC File No. X970002)
(Case No. 96-7196-Civ-Nesbitt)