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FTC Announces Crackdown on Two Massive Illegal Robocall Operations
Web of defendants blasted billions of robocalls, including more than 70 million to numbers on National Do Not Call Registry
The Federal Trade Commission today announced a crackdown on two massive robocall telemarketing operations, both of which have been blasting robocalls to consumers on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry since at least 2012.
Many of the defendants in the two cases, FTC v. Justin Ramsey, et. al. and FTC v. Aaron Michael Jones, et. al., have agreed to court orders that permanently ban them from making robocalls, making any calls to numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry, violating the TSR, and/or assisting others in doing so. The settling defendants also will pay the Commission a total of more than $500,000.
“The law is clear about robocalls — if a telemarketer doesn’t have consumers’ written permission, it’s illegal to make these calls,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will continue working hard to put a stop to telemarketers who ignore the law.”
The two ringleaders of the operations—Justin Ramsey and Aaron Michael (“Mike”) Jones—have previously been sued by state attorneys general for telemarketing violations and the FTC’s litigation against them continues.
According to the FTC’s complaint in the Ramsey action, the defendants illegally blasted millions of robocalls in 2012 and 2013 to consumers on the DNC Registry selling home security systems or generating leads for home security installation companies. In just one week in July 2012, the defendants allegedly made more than 1.3 million illegal calls to consumers nationwide, 80 percent of which were to numbers listed on the DNC Registry.
The FTC alleges that Ramsey continues to violate the TSR. For example, in April and May of 2016, the FTC alleges that he and his company, Prime Marketing LLC, placed at least 800,000 calls to numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry.
Two of Ramsey’s former business partners and their three companies have agreed to settle. In addition to the bans on robocalling, DNC and TSR violations, the court orders impose a $1.4 million judgment, which is suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay. The full amount will become due if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The FTC’s complaint in the Jones action charges nine individuals and 10 corporate entities with operating robocalling enterprises allegedly controlled by Mike Jones. According to the FTC’s complaint, between at least March 2009 and May 2016, the defendants made or helped to make billions of robocalls, many of which sold extended auto warranties, search engine optimization services, and home security systems, or generated leads for companies selling those goods and services. Many of those calls were to numbers on the DNC Registry.
In just the first three months of 2014, the FTC alleges that the defendants made more than 329 million robocalls to consumers in all 50 states, including 32 million to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry. In the first quarter of 2015, the FTC alleges that the defendants blasted out 222 million calls, including 40 million to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.
Seven of the nine individual defendants and Local Lighthouse Corp. have agreed to court orders, which in addition to the bans on robocalling, DNC and TSR violations, include a $9.9 million monetary judgment, with all but $510,000 suspended based upon the defendants’ inability to pay. The full amount of the judgment will become due against any defendants found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the complaints and proposed stipulated federal court orders in each case was 3-0. FTC staff filed the complaint and proposed orders in FTC v. Ramsey in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and the complaint and proposed orders in FTC v. Jones in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated court orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.