FTC Asks Court to Shut Down $70 Million Cramming Operation

The Federal Trade Commission has asked a U.S. district court to halt 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. The agency also asked the court to freeze the operation’s assets while the FTC moves forward with the case.

As part of its 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 appeared out of the blue on their phone bills without their authorization.  The FTC alleged that 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.

The FTC would like to acknowledge the assistance provided by the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana; the Montana Department of Justice; and the Federal Communications Commission for invaluable assistance in investigating this case.

The Commission vote, including Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch, authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0.  The FTC filed the complaint and the request for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, Missoula Division, on January 8, 2012.

For consumer information about cramming, see Mystery Charges on Your Phone Bill

NOTE:  The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest.  The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law.  

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 Assistant or 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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