FTC Expands Its Case Against Alleged Credit Card Interest Rate Reduction Scam

June 21, 2013
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Payment Processing Company Named for Assisting, Facilitating Telemarketing Fraud

The Federal Trade Commission continued its crackdown on credit card rate reduction scams by adding eight new defendants to a case the agency brought last year, including a payment processor it alleges assisted in the fraud.

The FTC filed an amended complaint against the defendants behind the firm Treasure Your Success (TYS), which allegedly made deceptive “cardholder services” robocalls, promising to lower consumers’ credit card rates in exchange for an upfront fee as high as $1,593.93.

Among the additional defendants named in the amended complaint is a company called Newtek Merchant Solutions, and its former president Derek Depuydt.  According to the complaint, they approved TYS for a merchant account without performing customary reviews (such as obtaining telemarketing scripts, as required by their own procedures) and despite clear warning signs of fraud.  They continued to process credit card transactions for TYS, despite knowing that it had high charge-back rates, had fraud alerts on its credit reports, and was on MasterCard’s fraud monitoring program.

The FTC filed its original complaint against TYS in November 2012, as part of a joint law enforcement effort against companies that allegedly made deceptive “cardholder services” robocalls.  The FTC’s amended complaint adds several counts against the new defendants, including: 1) making false representations during the sale of credit card interest rate reduction services; 2) falsely promising not to charge a fee until the consumers have received the promised savings; 3) billing consumers without their authorization; 4) violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule by misrepresenting material aspects of debt relief services; 5) violating the Do Not Call Rule; 6) charging an advance fee for debt relief services; 7) making unlawful prerecorded messages; and 8) assisting and facilitating deceptive and abusive telemarketing acts and practices.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the amended complaint was 4-0.  Staff filed for leave to file the complaint on June 17 and the judge authorized filing the amended complaint on June 18.  The Commission’s action is in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. The FTC would like to thank the Orlando Police Department for its assistance in bringing this case.

The amended complaint adds several new defendants to the case, which now include: 1) WV Universal Management, LLC, also doing business as Treasure Your Success; 2) Global Financial Assist, LLC; 3) Leading Production, LLC; 4) Willy Plancher, individually and as a member of WV Universal Management, LLC, Global Financial Assist, LLC, and Leading Production, LLC; 5) Valbona Toska, also known as Val Jones, individually and as a member of WV Universal Management, LLC, Global Financial Assist, LLC, and Leading Production, LLC; 6) HES Merchant Services Company, LLC; 7) Business First Solutions, Inc.; 8) VoiceOnyx Corp.; 9) Hal E. Smith, also known as H.E. Smith, Harold E. Smith, and Howell E. Smith, individually and as an officer of HES Merchant Services Company, LLC; 10) Jonathon E. Warren, individually and as an officer of Business First Solutions, Inc., and VoiceOnyx Corp.; 11) Ramon Sanchez-Ortega, also known as Ramon Sanchez and Ramon Ortega; 12) Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin, also doing business as Newtek Merchant Solutions; and 13) Derek Depuydt, individually and as an officer of Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.  To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistantor call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).  The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.  The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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