Targeted Spanish-Speaking and Other Consumers
A mother-son marketing team who allegedly tricked Spanish-speaking and other consumers into buying phony medical discount cards will be banned from selling any healthcare-related products under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
In August 2014, the FTC charged Constanza Gomez Vargas, Walter S. Vargas, and United Solutions Group Inc. with falsely telling consumers they were buying a qualified health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act. They targeted consumers who needed health insurance or were paying high premiums for coverage because they had lost their jobs or had pre-existing medical conditions.
“These scammers lied about selling health insurance and tricked people into buying phony medical discount cards instead,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We’re putting this operation out of business.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants claimed the “insurance” would pay for doctor and emergency room visits, but instead, consumers received nearly worthless “discount cards” and were left uninsured, despite paying an enrollment fee and monthly payments ranging from $99 to several hundred dollars.
The proposed settlement order also permanently prohibits the United Solutions Group defendants from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service, and selling or otherwise benefitting from customers’ personal information. It imposes a $2.1 million judgment that will be suspended upon payment of $17,616 and the transfer of two Mercedes Benz cars. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. Litigation continues against Gary L. Kieper and Partners In Health Care Association Inc.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the proposed stipulated final order was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida entered the order on November 10, 2015.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
To learn how to avoid these scams, read Discount Plan or Health Insurance?
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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