The operators of a telemarketing scheme that pitched phony business and grant opportunities have agreed to be banned from those lines of business under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which alleged that they targeted seniors, veterans, and debt-laden consumers with the scam.
According to an FTC complaint filed in October 2016, the defendants charged consumers hundreds or thousands of dollars and falsely promised to create a retail website for them that linked to Amazon.com and would earn substantial income. The defendants’ telemarketers, often claiming to represent the government, also falsely claimed that consumers who paid them thousands of dollars were guaranteed to receive grants from the government and other sources worth tens – and sometimes hundreds – of thousands of dollars.
Under the stipulated final orders, Carl E. Morris, Jr., Stephanie A. Bateluna, Stacey Vela and Paramount Business Services LLC are banned from telemarketing and the sale of business opportunities, grant products and services, and related products and services. They are also prohibited from misrepresenting, in selling any good or service, affiliation with Amazon.com or any other online merchant or the government. In addition, they are barred from selling or otherwise benefitting from consumers’ personal information they had collected and failing to dispose of it properly upon the FTC’s request.
Each order imposes a judgment of more than $11.8 million, which – only for Bateluna, Vela, and Paramount – will be partially suspended after they have surrendered their assets. The full judgment for these defendants will become due immediately if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The FTC thanks the Phoenix Police Department and Office of the Arizona Attorney General for their important assistance in this matter.
The Commission vote approving the stipulated final orders was 2-0. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona entered the orders against Bateluna, Vela and Paramount on August 11, 2017, and the order against Morris on August 29, 2017.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
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