The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has issued a temporary restraining order and assets freeze against two companies and two associated individuals barring them from billing for inmate calling services; from selling, leasing, or otherwise disclosing financial or identifying information of customers; and from offering or marketing any goods and services, the Federal Trade Commission has announced.
In a press release issued today, the FTC said that the defendants advertised and marketed inmate calling plans with unlimited minutes, which they did not provide, and have "bilked consumers out of at least $1 million." It added that the "scheme preyed on inmates’ families and friends who rely on phone calls to stay in touch with their incarcerated loved ones—particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person visitation has been suspended at prisons—and may be looking for cheaper calling options given the high cost of per-minute calls."
The defendants falsely represented themselves as being affiliated with real inmate calling service (ICS) providers, the FTC said in its complaint.
After paying the defendants fees of $29.97 for one month, $49.97 for three months, or $89.97 for a year, the defendants directed consumers to open accounts with actual inmate calling service (ICS) providers, where they faced normal per-minute ICS service charges, the FTC said in its press release. In addition, it said that "the scheme’s operators also made it difficult for consumers to reach the company and receive refunds, generating hundreds of complaints."
The court also issued an order to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be issued against Disruption Theory LLC, Emergent Technologies LLC, and Marc and Courtney Grishman, all of which have done business as inmatecall.com and inmatecallsolutions.com.
In its complaint, the FTC said that Disruption and Emergent have operated as a common enterprise "through an interrelated network of companies that have common websites, business purposes, and are under common control." It added, "Defendants Marc and Courtney Grisham have formulated, directed, controlled, had the authority to control, or participated in the acts and practices of the Corporate Defendants that constitute the common enterprise."
The FTC had voted 5-0 to authorize staff to file the complaint with the court.
The court had issued the order under seal on Oct. 6. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
MainStory: FederalNews FTC Courts
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