The Federal Trade Commission is seeking a contempt order in federal court against defendants previously involved in a massive, Florida-based marketing scheme, alleging that they violated the terms of a court-ordered permanent injunction by engaging in some of the same deceptive tactics that led to the FTC’s prior charges against them.
In 2007, the FTC took action against the defendants behind Suntasia Marketing, Inc., charging them with deceptively marketing negative option programs to consumers nationwide. According to the agency, the defendants defrauded consumers and charged their bank accounts without consent for various negative option programs, including memberships in discount buyer’s and travel clubs. In a negative option program, a company takes consumers’ silence or failure to cancel the program as acceptance of the offer and permission to debit funds from their accounts.
The defendants agreed to the 2008 injunction in order to settle the FTC’s charges. Under the settlement, 14 defendants involved in the scheme were required to pay more than $16 million. In particular, defendants Bryon Wolf and Roy Eliasson were required to pay over $11 million, and were barred from misrepresenting material facts regarding an offer, failing to disclose material terms of what they sell, debiting consumers’ accounts without their consent, and other unlawful acts.
But according to the FTC, within months of the court’s 2008 order, defendants Bryon Wolf and Roy Eliasson, and their firm Membership Services, LLC, which Wolf and Eliasson control, devised a new plan to defraud consumers. In this scheme, they targeted recent loan applicants with deceptive phone and Internet solicitations that misled consumers to believe the defendants would provide them with cash advances or loans, or general lines of credit. Instead of providing these services, the defendants debited consumers’ accounts for membership in a continuity program. Very few consumers used the program and many cancelled upon discovering their account had been debited by defendants. The continuity plans go under the names “Monster Rewards,” “Mongo,” and “Money on the Go.”
Based on this conduct, the FTC charged the defendants with violating the permanent injunction by making misrepresentations to consumers about their programs, by failing to make key disclosures, by failing to get express informed consent before debiting consumers’ accounts, and by failing to disclose clearly and promptly their programs during telemarketed solicitations. According to the FTC, through their deceptive actions, the defendants have netted over $9 million.
The civil contempt action was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division on May 22, 2013, and unsealed by the Court on July 31, 2013. It names as defendants Bryon Wolf, Roy Eliasson, and Membership Services, LLC.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
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