The Federal Trade Commission charged in federal court that a Montreal based enterprise calls U.S. consumers promising major credit cards and charges as much as $299 without ever delivering the credit cards. The Commission’s complaint alleges that the defendants, 9094-5114 Quebec, Inc. (operating as “Kinito”), Nikolaos Rothos, Steve Vrontakis, Ana Vrontakis, and Roberto Mendez, violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) in the promotion of advance-fee credit cards. A federal court in Chicago has ordered the defendants to halt making these deceptive claims and has frozen the defendants’ assets.
The FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants typically target American consumers with offers of a MasterCard credit card with a $5,000 credit limit in exchange for a one-time advance fee, which the defendants automatically debit from the consumers’ bank accounts. During the sales pitch, the FTC alleges, Kinito’s telemarketers tell consumers that the credit card offers are directed towards consumers with poor credit histories. After their bank accounts are debited, the Commission alleges, most consumers receive nothing from Kinito. According to the FTC, some consumers only receive packets containing a few promotional materials, such as, a welcome letter, a list of banks where the consumers can apply for credit cards, a solicitation for free Internet service, and a solicitation for satellite dish service. The FTC court filings estimate that consumers have lost millions of dollars in this scam.
In addition, according to the FTC, the defendants tell consumers who try to get refunds from Kinito after receiving only the packet of materials that they cannot get a refund unless their credit applications had been rejected by five banks. Consumers who fax the denial letters from the five banks as Kinito instructed, still do not receive refunds, the FTC alleges.
The FTC’s complaint also names 9094-5114 Quebec, Inc., d/b/a as Kinito, Kinito, Inc., Kinito Benefits Services, KBS, and First Approval Benefits, headquartered in St. Laurent, Quebec, Canada. The Commission has asked the court to halt the Kinito’s practices temporarily and to freeze its assets.
The FTC has worked closely with the Canadian Competition Bureau and the United States Postal Inspection Service on this case and expresses its gratitude for the fine cooperation it has received from these consumer protection officials.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division on October 23, 2003. That same day, a Federal District Court Judge granted the FTC’s request for a temporary restraining order to end these practices and to freeze the defendants’ assets.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint 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 the consumer 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 http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Office of Public Affairs
FTC Midwest Region - Chicago
312-960-5628 or 312-960-5634
(FTC File No. 032 3126)
(Civil Action No. 03C 7486)