The Federal Trade Commission has halted a scheme that deceived friends and family of incarcerated people with false promises of unlimited minutes for inmate calling plans that, in reality, did not provide a single minute of talk time. As part of a settlement with the FTC, the scheme’s operators are prohibited from making deceptive claims and consumers must be notified about the unlawful conduct.
In its first case involving inmate calling plans, the FTC alleged that the operators of the scheme preyed on inmates’ families and friends who rely on phone calls to stay in touch with their incarcerated loved ones—particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person visitations were suspended.
In its complaint filed in October 2020, the FTC alleged that Marc and Courtney Grisham and their companies Disruption Theory LLC and Emergent Technologies LLC, doing business as inmatecall.com and inmatecallsolutions.com, advertised and marketed the unlimited minutes calling plans that they never provided. They also posed as companies authorized to provide calling services to prisons and jails to bolster the credibility of their false claim.
As part of a settlement with the FTC, Marc Grisham is prohibited from making similar claims in the future and must notify past and future customers about his unlawful conduct. Marc Grisham must post a notice on any current and future consumer-facing websites notifying customers that he was sued for false advertising, and that his inmate calling plans did not eliminate required per-minute call charges or replace approved call providers.
A federal court also issued a default judgment against Courtney Grisham, Disruption Theory, and Emergent Technologies on September 1, 2021, which permanently bans them from offering inmate calling services.
The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 5-0. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The order was approved by a federal judge on October 14, 2021.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions, etc. have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
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