Commission alleges shady, sometimes threatening behavior toward Spanish-speakers

Los Abusos

The threats were the worst part, according to the Federal Trade Commision, which alleges that Spanish-speaking consumers throughout the United States were harassed by telemarketers who, in an escalating series of abusive phone calls, threatened to sue the consumers for fraud. Sometimes the callers threatened to sic the authorities on the consumers; sometimes they claimed that they would seize the consumers’ passports and residency papers.

When they were through threatening one individual, they would begin making similar calls to the victim’s relatives.

All this under the supposed aegis of a well-known and trusted organization or business – a government “help center,” a Spanish-language radio station, or Walmart.

Las Acusaciones

In February 2017, the FTC launched a complaint against California-based ABC Hispana, Inc. and ISB Latino, Inc.; Florida-based ABC Latina, LLC; and two of the companies’ principals, Gonzalo Ricardo Bazán Jiménez and Milagros Raquel Urmeneta, for an alleged telemarketing scam that targeted Spanish-speakers and led to the escalating threats.

The FTC alleges that the defendants hired Peruvian telemarketers to call consumers throughout the country, offering a variety of English-language instruction material – CDs, DVDs, books, Spanish-English dictionaries, and translation devices. They would identify themselves as representatives from trusted public businesses or organizations, offering a steep discount on the supposed price of the instructional material.

The FTC maintained that the discounts were completely chimerical; that the companies were unaffiliated with any of the groups claimed by the callers; and that in certain cases prizes or additional discounted products offered by the callers were sub-par or never arrived. The Commission pursued charges under the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

Palabras Para Llevar Contigo

The following April, the Central District of California froze the defendants’ assets pending resolution of the case. A final order was issued in late August, banning the defendants from telemarketing, forbidding them from misrepresenting material facts about their products and imposing a judgment of more than $6.3 million against the defendants.

Immigrant communities are particularly susceptible to fraudulent schemes. We have seen an increase both in scams targeting immigrant communities in their native language and in enforcement actions against the predators. A fraud is a fraud, in any language.