Callers lied about being blind, investigation shows
DES MOINES – The Iowa attorney general alleges that a Florida man associated with a telemarketing company has again run afoul of Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act, seven years after being banned from soliciting Iowans.
John Michael Zampieri III of Destin, Fla., and Life Quest of America, based in Mobile, Ala., have been barred from calling or mailing Iowans under a consent judgment entered by Polk County Judge Celene Gogerty. In addition, Zampieri and the company must pay $12,000 to Iowa consumers who purchased Life Quest products, as well as pay $12,000 to the state.
The Iowa Attorney General’s office alleged that Life Quest, a for-profit company, employed telemarketers who lied about being blind while selling products such as freezer bags, light bulbs and air fresheners at extreme markups. The telemarketers also lied about the extent to which sales benefited the disabled, according to the consent judgment.
Zampieri and Life Quest denied the allegations but agreed to the consent judgment.
This is the second time the Attorney General’s Office has investigated a company associated with Zampieri. In a voluntary agreement with the Attorney General’s office in January 2012, Zampieri promised to permanently stop soliciting Iowans after another company with which he was associated, Lifeline Industries, Inc., was accused of similar allegations. In one call, a Lifeline telemarketer falsely claimed to be calling “for the blind people of Iowa.”
“We have repeatedly uncovered deceptive practices by Zampieri’s operations. This is egregious conduct,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.
In October 2018, a telemarketer called into the Consumer Protection Division’s undercover line and said that money from sales would go toward her and other blind people.
“I got hit by a drunk driver and that’s how I lost my eye, one of my eye,” said the caller.
In response to a subpoena from the attorney general, the company said it employed a blind woman who packages and ships products, but admitted that it employed no blind telemarketers.
If Zampieri violates the consent judgment, he could be subject to fines of up to $5,000 per day of the violation under Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act.
Zampieri established a Cook Islands-based family trust that owns Life Quest. He is also a beneficiary of the trust.
The Consumer Protection Division will reach out directly to Life Quest victims to issue refunds.
“It’s sad that such companies take advantage of generous Iowans,” Miller said. “Be wary of dubious operations that play upon your sympathies.”
Miller’s office offers other tips when considering solicitations:
- Don’t be fooled by a sympathetic name. Some operations use names that promise more than they deliver. Some marginal operations claim connections with veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, and disabled workers, yet provide them with very little support. Don’t be pressured into helping out until you have checked out a worthy-sounding organization.
- Ask questions. Be wary of claims that the caller is a charity worker or volunteer, that most of your donation goes to the cause, or that your donation will be used locally.
- Ask phone solicitors to send written information. Check out the charity before you make a decision. Be suspicious if they insist on a pledge before they’ll send you information. Check them out at the national Better Business Bureau “wise giving” site – www.give.org.
- Don't give your credit card or checking account numbers over the phone to someone you don't know.
- Give wisely! Giving to a known charity you’re confident about is often the best option.
If you think you may have been cheated by a telemarketer, file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division.
Phone: 515-281-5926 (outside the Des Moines area, call toll-free: 888-777-4590)