Join Date: Feb 2005
US: FBI wants phone scam victims to speak up
FBI raids firm suspected of scam
Agency seeks phone customers' complaints about company linked to Fair Finance's Durham
Dec 17, 2010
FBI agents from Indianapolis earlier this week raided a Minnesota phone company that has ties to Fair Finance Co. co-owner Timothy Durham.
The FBI remains tightlipped about the raid in which agents seized documents from Alternate Billing Corp. in Minneapolis. No one was arrested.
The FBI is seeking information from land-line telephone consumers who feel they have been scammed by more than 20 companies that have ties to Durham, an Indianapolis businessman who separately is running California-based entertainment company National Lampoon Inc.
According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, the companies are suspected of ''cramming,'' a scam that puts small, unauthorized charges on a person's telephone bill that are often overlooked.
Among the companies that have a direct tie to Durham are eProtect-ID, Streaming Flix, Durham Technology, MyIProducts and Need-TheInfo, according to the Indianapolis business weekly.
Businesses with indirect ties to Durham that the FBI seeks information about include Alternate Billing, which also does business as ABC Corp., according to the newspaper. Fair Finance loaned as much as $365,000 to ABC, while its president, Cynthia Landeen, received a $284,000 loan from Fair Finance, ac
cording to records.
Alternate Billing's website prominently lists National Lampoon as one of its ''online merchants.''
The search warrant used in the raid is sealed, according to the Forest Lake Times weekly newspaper in Minnesota.
According to the Forest Lake Times, FBI agents along with members of the Wyoming (Minn.) police department raided Alternate Billing.
One TV station interviewed a witness who said that FBI agents had their guns drawn as the raid began.
Alternate Billing had been under investigation for more than a year, Wyoming Police Chief Paul Hoppe told the newspaper.
The FBI declined to comment. An FBI spokesman referred to the agency's website where it asked people for information regarding Alternate Billing and other businesses. The website address is: http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/pre...billing_121610.
Fair Finance Co. was forced into bankruptcy after FBI raids Nov. 24, 2009, in Akron and at Obsidian Enterprises, a related business in Indianapolis. Federal officials suspected the longtime Akron loan company had been operated as a Ponzi scheme after being bought in 2002 by Durham and business partner James Cochran.
More than 5,300 Ohio investors purchased an estimated $218 million in uninsured investment certificates from Fair Finance. No one has been charged or arrested.
I'm assuming the people involved in the above 'cramming' thought they would be(at worst) 'investigated' by their friends at the FTC
as in this unrelated article.
March 1, 2010
The San Francisco brothers hired overseas telemarketers to offer directory assistance and other services to small businesses and ordinary Americans, according to a major case to be unveiled this week by the Federal Trade Commission.
A decade ago, the scam was so widespread that it became one of the most profitable business lines of the Gambino crime family.
A wave of federal and state crackdowns pushed the crime into remission. But as phone bills, both conventional and cellular, have become more complex, crammers are making a comeback by using sophisticated marketing techniques and by launching their schemes from overseas to try to escape the purview of U.S. regulators.
Crammers rely on other firms. Companies called billing aggregators help them get the charges on bills. And the big phone companies look the other way, consumer advocates say. Each of these participants takes a slice of the revenues.
Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director for U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, said the phone companies could stop the practice if they wanted to. "These fly-by-night companies are out there and the telephone companies are happy to take their money," he said.
Other consumer advocates noted that while the FTC has aggressively pursued cramming cases, it is barred by law from investigating consumer complaints about the major phone companies. That falls under the purview of the Federal Communications Commission, which has been slow to pressure the phone companies to stop cramming schemes, the advocates said.
Joel Gurin, the chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau said the agency is studying the matter.
"This is an issue the FCC is looking at closely," he said in a statement.
Spokespersons for Verizon and AT&T contended that they are responsive to cramming complaints, but noted that some third-party charges that appear on phone bills are legitimate.
"When we get complaints about particular providers, we've been vigilant," said Susan Cavender Butta, a spokeswoman for Verizon. "And if we've seen an excessive number of complaints, we'll take action to terminate that contract."
this is what happens when dishonest politicians allow themselves to be influenced by unscrupulous business and criminals.
Last edited by El Gringo; 19-December-2010 at 16:11.