Thousands of consumers who were scammed into paying money they did not owe by con artists who threatened, harassed and lied to them will soon be receiving a total of $1.6 million.
In 2003, the FTC sued three companies, operating under the name National Check Control, charging them with harassing and abusing consumers, falsely threatening criminal prosecution, illegally communicating with third parties, collecting amounts that were not due, and other violations of federal laws.
In 2005, the court ordered a permanent halt to their operations and ordered them to pay redress to the consumers they had bilked. The defendants, including Check Investors, Inc., Check Enforcement, Inc., Jaredco, Inc., the companies' owner, Barry Sussman, and their corporate counsel, Charles Hutchins, unsuccessfully appealed the case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
Several readers wrote ConsumerAffairs.com describing their run-ins with National Check Control.
Kellie of Arlington, TX, says she received a letter stating that she had an unpaid check in the amount of $146.15, from "Sears." The claim, she says, came from National Check Control, which is "implying criminal prosecution. I have only shopped at Sears once in my life, and that was to purchase a major appliance for several, several, hundreds of dollars, in which I paid cash."
Melissa from Newport News, VA, says she was threatened with jail over returned checks. "I asked for a copy of these checks because I dispute that I wrote them. He didn't let me finish before asking me did I want to go to jail today. He asked if I had children I said 'yes,' he told me to make arrangements because I was going to jail." She said she was in fear of being arrested.
On February 7, 2008, one day after the appeals court refused to reconsider Sussman's appeal, he removed from a bank safe deposit box coins valued at $335,000 that the federal court had ordered him to turn over to the FTC for consumer redress.
A federal jury convicted him of two felony counts -- theft of government property and obstruction of justice. In October 2009, he was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and is currently serving his sentence.
The FTC recovered a total of $1.6 million for consumer redress. The funds will be distributed to 24,916 consumers who each lost $100 or more as the result of the defendants' illegal actions. Consumers will begin to receive checks this month.