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As of July 8, 2015, the operators of a fraudulent debt collection scheme have agreed to be banned from the debt collection business and telemarketing, to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they bilked millions of dollars from Spanish-speaking consumers throughout the country by demanding that they pay bogus debts.
The settlements stem from an FTC complaint filed last year against defendants Centro Natural Corp., Sumore LLC, Carolina Orellana, Damian Biondi, Jessica Anzola, Javier Sumbre, and Susana Sumbre, alleging that they threatened consumers with lawsuits, arrest and immigration status investigations if they failed to make payments on phony debts.
The complaint also names Bionore Inc., Jager International Inc., Allianza Inmobiliaria Corp. and Jorge Sumbre as relief defendants who profited from the scheme.
Under the settlement orders, Sumore and the individual defendants are banned from debt collection activities and telemarketing, and they are permanently prohibited from making the misrepresentations alleged in the complaint, and material misrepresentations about any product or service. These defendants and the relief defendants are also barred from selling or otherwise benefitting from customers' personal information.
The settlement orders impose judgments on the defendants totaling nearly $6.8 million, which are suspended upon the transfer of approximately $776,000 worth of assets, including Florida real estate.
In each case, the full judgment will become due immediately if the defendant is found to have misrepresented his or her financial condition.
The order against relief defendant Allianza Inmobiliaria imposes a $172,000 judgment against the company.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
As of October 23, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) request, a U.S. district court in Miami has temporarily shut down a fraudulent phantom debt collection operation that deceived and abused thousands of Spanish-speaking consumers across the country in an attempt to collect money they did not even owe.
According to the FTC, the defendants behind Centro Natural Corp. and Sumore L.L.C. bilked consumers out of at least two million dollars. The FTC is seeking a court order permanently stopping the defendants' scam.
In its complaint, the FTC charged that the defendants cold-called consumers and threatened them with harsh consequences, such as arrest, legal actions, and immigration status investigations, if they failed to make large payments on bogus debts. The defendants' telemarketers also pressured and deceived consumers into paying for unwanted products by telling consumers it would "settle" their debt.
According to the FTC's complaint, since at least 2011, the defendants have held themselves out as court or government officials or lawyers.
They demanded that consumers pay them to "settle" phantom debts that typically ranged between $3,000 and $9,000.
The FTC alleges that the defendants often told consumers that they could settle their debts by paying defendants hundreds of dollars. If consumers refused to pay, the defendants often continued to call and threaten them, sometimes using profane language.
The defendants also kept calling consumers who asked them not to call again, regularly cold-called consumers whose phone numbers are on the Do Not Call Registry, and failed to pay fees for the Do Not Call Registry.
The complaint charges the defendants with violating the FTC Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule, and failing to pay for, or abide by, the rules of the Do Not Call Registry.
The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the federal court complaint against defendants Centro Natural Corp., Sumore, L.L.C., Carolina Orellana, Damian Biondi, Javier Sumbre, and Jessica Anzola, and relief defendant Bionore, Inc. was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on October 20, 2014. The court issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants the same day.
For further assistance please contact
Federal Trade Commission
to file a complaint in English or Spanish call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Telephone: (202) 326-2222.