The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to shut down an operation that allegedly placed more than $70 million in bogus charges on consumers’ phone bills -- charges for services the consumers never ordered, did not authorize and often did not know they had.
In addition, the agency has asked a U.S. district court to freeze the operation's assets while the case moves forward.
As part of a continuing crackdown on fraud and deception, the FTC filed a complaint against American eVoice, Ltd., eight other companies, Steven Sann, and three other people for "cramming" unauthorized charges onto consumers’ phone bills.
The complaint also alleges that the Missoula, Montana-area defendants transferred the proceeds from their illegal cramming operation to a purported non-profit, Bibliologic, Ltd., controlled by Steven Sann.
Hundreds of consumers complained that charges from $9.95 to $24.95 per month suddenly appeared on their phone bills without their authorization. The FTC claims defendants told phone companies and third party “billing aggregators” that the consumers had authorized the charges by filling out forms on the internet. Since January 2008, according to the complaint, the defendants have billed consumers for more than $70 million.
The FTC alleged that the defendants violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by:
- unfairly billing consumers for services they did not authorize; and
- deceptively representing that consumers were obligated to pay for the services.
The FTC also alleged that defendants channeled their illegal proceeds to Bibliologic, and that the purported non-profit organization has no right to the funds and must disgorge them to the FTC.
The complaint names as defendants Steven Sann; Terry Lane (aka Terry Sann); Nathan Sann; Robert Braach; American eVoice, Ltd.; Emerica Media Corp.; FoneRight, Inc.; Global Voice Mail, Ltd.; HearYou2, Inc.; Network Assurance, Inc.; SecuratDat, Inc.; Techmax Solutions, Inc.; and Voice Mail Professionals, Inc. The complaint also names Bibliologic, Ltd. as a relief defendant.