Continuing its national effort to "Stamp Out Job Fraud," the Federal Trade Commission today announced five law enforcement actions against nine companies and seven individuals promising jobs with the federal or state government or the U.S. Postal Service. Through classified ads, telephone pitches, Internet advertising and training school seminars, the companies misled consumers into paying $45 - $80 for practice exams and application forms. The defendants in four cases falsely represented that permanent positions with the Postal Service or federal government were available where the classified ads were placed, and that consumers were likely to score high on any required exams and receive jobs using their materials. The fifth case involved a company operating in a similar fashion but offering employment opportunities with state government agencies. With these cases, the FTC has now brought a total of nine law enforcement actions against 19 companies and 26 individuals, stopping nearly $15 million in annual fraudulent sales.
"Recent announcements of layoffs are sending thousands of people to the classified pages to look for work," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Unfortunately, some classifieds mislead job hunters about the availability of jobs. There are two things for job hunters to remember: information about government jobs is always free and guarantees of government jobs are always false."
"The U.S. Postal Service 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.
In most instances, the companies operated similarly, placing classified ads in newspapers across the United States announcing that jobs were available with the U.S. Postal Service or federal or state government. The ads also described the jobs as providing generous wages and benefits and invited consumers to call a telephone number (often toll-free). The complaints allege that the defendants misrepresented their affiliation with the Postal Service; that permanent positions with the government were available in the geographic areas where they placed classified ads; that consumers were likely to obtain postal or other government jobs by using their materials; that consumers were likely to obtain high scores on any required exams by using their materials; and that they paid full refunds to all consumers who requested them. One complaint alleged the company falsely offered employment opportunities on the state government level. Another complaint alleged the company deceptively advertised and operated private schools that offered purported training to consumers interested in postal or government jobs, and recently had begun marketing the schools as business opportunities.
In four cases -- see attached list -- the FTC obtained temporary or preliminary restraining orders that froze all of the assets of the defendants and appointed receivers over the corporate defendants. In the fifth case, the FTC settled the matter and filed a stipulated final federal court order that permanently bans the defendants from selling business opportunities and mass marketing employment related goods or services.
The Consumer Education Campaign
Today, the FTC also announces "Making a Buck," a new website at www.ftc.gov/makingabuck to inform consumers about federal and postal job scams, work-at-home schemes and consumers' credit rights. In addition, the FTC Consumer Alert, "Federal and Postal Job Scams: Tip-Offs to Rip-Offs," gives consumers the information they need to spot and avoid job scams.
The FTC offers some reminders to those seeking any government job:
As part of the Consumer Education Campaign, the FTC offers the following
Tip-offs to Rip-offs:
If consumers have concerns about a company's advertisements for employment services, they should contact the FTC's Consumer Response Center, toll-free, at 1-877-382-4357; or visit the FTC's website at www.ftc.gov. Information about employment opportunities with the federal government are available from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management website: www.usajobs.opm.gov. The USPS is finalizing the Test Orientation Guide for Major Entrance Examinations, which will be available from the USPS web site www.usps.com at no charge shortly. This document provides sample exercises and other information to help interested individuals do their best on the major USPS entrance examinations. It will also provide accurate information about the USPS selection process and employment requirements, contrary to much of the materials provided by these companies.
The FTC was assisted by the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of Personnel Management, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Attorney General's Office of Indiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee, California Department of Corporations, the human resource offices for the States of Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Idaho, Oregon, and Ohio, the Crown Point Police Department, the Nashville Metro Police Department, and the Better Business Bureaus of Northwest Indiana, Southland, and Nashville.
The Commission votes authorizing staff to file the complaints in the four cases were 5-0. The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the complaint and settlement in the fifth case was 4-0, with Commissioner Sheila F. Anthony not participating.
Office of Public Affairs
Heather Hippsley or Gregory Ashe
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3285 or 202-326-3719
FTC'S 2001 CASES IN "STAMP OUT JOB FRAUD"
Vocational Guides, Inc., and its president, Timothy Scott Jackson. Complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division on February 20, 2001. On February 20, 2001, the court granted the FTC's request for a temporary restraining order, asset freeze, and appointment of a temporary receiver. Civil Action No: 3-01-1070; FTC Staff Contact: Chris M. Couillou, FTC Southeast Region-Atlanta; 404-656-1390.
American Information Labor Services, Inc., American Data Bureau, LLC, and their principals, Scott A. Horowitz and Mitchell M. Grod. Complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Santa Ana on January 8, 2001. On January 9, 2001, the court granted the FTC's request for a temporary restraining order, asset freeze, and appointment of a temporary receiver. On January 18, 2001, the court entered a stipulated preliminary injunction, continuing the terms of the TRO. Civil Action No: SACV-01-33-AHS; FTC Staff Contact: Lisa A. Rosenthal, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2408.
Career Network, Inc., and its principals, Walter Turulis and Kathleen Key. Complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, on January 3, 2001. On January 3, 2001, the court granted the FTC's request for a temporary restraining order, asset freeze, and appointment of a temporary receiver. On January 9, 2001, the court entered stipulated preliminary injunction, continuing the terms of the TRO. Civil Action No: 2:01-CV-001-JM; FTC Staff Contact: Gregory A. Ashe, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3719.
Government Careers Network, Inc., Government Careers Center, Inc. (Florida corporation), Government Careers Center, Inc. (New York corporation), and their principal, Anthony Venzara. Complaint and Stipulated Final Order filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in New York on March 19, 2001. The order permanently bans defendants from selling business opportunities and the corporate defendants from selling employment goods and services. Defendant Venzara is permanently banned from selling employment goods and services via telemarketing, the Internet, or through seminars. Civil Action No. 01-CV-2286-GEL; FTC Staff Contact: Gregory A. Ashe, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3719.
Federal Data Service, Inc. (FDS), a Margate, Florida company, and its principals, Stephen Tate, Spencer Golden and Dawn Johnson, are permanently banned from promoting or selling employment services, and have paid approximately $800,000 to resolve FTC charges that they misrepresented the availability of U.S. Postal Service and federal wildlife jobs and the ability of their materials to help consumers obtain such jobs. The settlement also requires the defendants to obtain a performance bond in the amount of $100,000 before engaging in, or assisting others engaged in, any telemarketing activities. The settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, was approved by the Court and entered on January 9, 2001. For more information, see FTC Press Release dated Feb. 5, 2001.
Think Achievement Corporation. In October 2000, the FTC 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 permanently banned William Tankersley and his eight corporations from marketing career advisory goods and services and engaging in telemarketing. 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. For more information see FTC Press Release dated Nov. 8, 2000. This case was brought as part of the FTC and U.S. Postal Service January 1998 "Operation Stamp Out Job Fraud" law enforcement sweep. For more information see FTC Press Release dated Jan. 22, 1998.
On January 29, 2001, the court found William and Linda Tankersley to be in civil contempt of court for failing to turn over assets to the court-appointed receiver as required by the final order. The Court gave them 10 days to purge their contempt and they failed to do so. On February 9, the Court issued bench warrants for the Tankersleys' arrest. They were arrested by the U.S. Marshals on February 12 in Naples, FL and are being held in the Chicago metropolitan correctional center until they turn over their assets.
Meanwhile, in November 1999, William Tankersley was indicted by a grand jury in Hammond, Indiana on two counts of criminal contempt of court for violating interim asset freeze orders by selling a $213,000 yacht and attempting to send the proceeds to an account in the Bahamas. On December 18, 2000, the day of his trial, Tankersley pled guilty to both counts. Sentencing is currently scheduled for May 10, 2001