As an agency with civil law enforcement authority, the FTC likes a criminal bust as much as anyone. And, just last month, our colleagues at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) delivered a good one. Listen to this:
Daniel Carrasco and Federico Martin Gioja ran telemarketing companies in Argentina that mostly called Spanish speakers in the US promoting items like vitamins, lotions, and English-language training materials. They also promised gifts: fancy watches and perfumes, gift cards, even medical assistance and insurance.
If the companies didn’t have the product someone ordered, they sent something else. And if the consumer refused delivery, the same telemarketers called back and threatened arrest, deportation, and fines on utility bills. The threats were fraudulent, but they sounded real enough to the consumers who got them.
A tip from Univision got the investigation rolling. The media conglomerate believed a company was involved in fraud, including pretending to be affiliated with Univision. USPIS investigated and arrested the defendants – impressive, because, while the defendants were in the US, the telemarketing companies operated out of another country. The Miami Division of USPIS worked closely with DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida to build the case.
In the end, Carrasco and Gioja pleaded guilty: Carrasco was sentenced to serve 121 months in federal prison; Gioja was sentenced to serve 108 months. They also had to forfeit assets, including real estate, a car, motorcycles, a boat, a jet ski, and firearms. That’s an ending worthy of “Law & Order” any day.
Here’s a quick reminder: the law says you don’t have to return or pay for goods you didn’t order. And your local U.S. Postal Inspector would like to hear about it if you’re getting these kinds of threats about something you got in the mail. Ask for the phone number at your post office.