At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court has halted a telemarketing scheme that took at least $3 million from consumers, including elderly and disabled persons, who sought help with paying personal expenses, such as credit card debts, medical bills, and home repairs.
The FTC alleges that the defendants falsely told consumers they could get $10,000 or more in government or private grant money by using the defendants’ service. They charged up-front fees ranging from $295 to $4,995, and routinely told consumers that, for an additional fee, they could either obtain more grant money or receive the money faster.
According to the FTC, most, if not all, consumers received nothing from the defendants and ended up deeper in debt. The defendants operated under many names, often changing names when they received consumer complaints or cease and desist notices from state attorneys general, or when they lost merchant accounts, which are used to process charges to consumers’ credit and debit card accounts.
The defendants are Hite Media Group, LLC, also doing business as Premium Grants and PremiumGrants.com; Premium Business Solutions LLC and Premium Domain Services LLC, both also d/b/a Premium Services, Premium Grants and PremiumGrants.com; 2 Unique LLC, also d/b/a Premium Services, Unique Grants.com, and Grant Support; Amazing App LLC; Michael Ford Hilliard; Michael De Rosa; Shawn Stumbo; Tiffany Hoffman; and Jeremy Silvers. They are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on July 17, 2018, and a preliminary injunction hearing is currently scheduled for July 31, 2018. The Phoenix Police Department provided the FTC with significant assistance.