At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal judge has temporarily halted and frozen the assets of an operation that swindled Spanish-speaking consumers across the country by routinely sending unordered or defective products, including a phony weight-loss belt, and then making it difficult, impossible, or costly for consumers to obtain relief. The FTC seeks to permanently stop the illegal practices and make the defendants return victims’ money.
“The defendants tricked consumers into purchasing unwanted goods, and then left them holding the bag,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s announcement should serve as notice to other would-be scammers that the FTC will take action against such conduct.”
According to a complaint filed by the FTC, in TV ads the defendants – Hispanic Global Way, Hispanic Network Connections, and several other companies run by Maria Elizabeth Vera, Rafael Martin Hernandez, Roberto Carrasco Macedo, and Maria Gisella Carrasco – offered English-language courses, cell phones, ladies’ garments, exercise equipment, and the “Molding Motion 5” belt, with no mention of refund and exchange policies. Consumers often received incomplete orders, the wrong or defective products, products of the wrong size or color, and products that did not perform as advertised, the complaint alleges. Regarding the purported weight-loss belt, the defendants’ advertising allegedly indicated that consumers could expect rapid and substantial weight-loss regardless of diet and exercise habits, with no reasonable basis to substantiate such claims.
When consumers called to complain, the defendants routinely placed them on hold for long periods, disconnected them, or otherwise ignored or insulted them, the complaint alleged. If consumers persisted, sales representatives said they could not return or exchange defective products or products the consumers never ordered, or that consumers would have to pay additional fees, ranging from $20 to $299, to do so. The most persistent consumers received promises of refunds or exchanges that never materialized.
The defendants are charged with refusing to provide refunds for, or imposing substantial fees to exchange, unwanted or unusable products; misrepresenting that consumers could return products, even after use, for refunds at no additional cost; and making false, unsubstantiated claims about the weight-loss belt, in violation of the FTC Act.
The defendants are Vera, Hernandez, Macedo, Carrasco, Hispanic Global Way Corp., Hispanic Global Way LLC, Hispanic Global Way Venez Corp, Hispanic Global Way Venez 1 Corp, Gold Lead USA Corporation, Sky Advance Choices Corp., Sky Advance LLC, First Airborne Service Trading Corp., Hispanic Network Connections LLC, Fast Solutions Plus Corp, and Grand Team Service Corp.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The court entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on June 2, 2014.
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 , follow us on , and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.