Miller seeks injunction barring companies from helping European scammers bilk elderly Iowans
(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller Wednesday filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against two New Jersey companies and their owner for their role in helping facilitate marketing, billing and debt collections in Iowa on behalf of fraudulent European psychic operations.
The lawsuit filed against TCA Mailing Inc. and T. Clements & Associates Inc., both of Clifton, and the companies’ owner Timothy J. Clements, of Bordentown, alleged that the defendants actively coordinated with the psychic operations in mailing Iowans offers of a free personal analysis by a famous psychic, billing those who accepted the free analysis, and then sending threatening collection letters to consumers who refused to pay the unfounded bills.
“We allege that this is a vicious scheme that preys primarily on vulnerable older people,” Miller said. “We also allege that although operators in Europe may have originated the scheme, these US-based defendants were active participants and can’t escape responsibility for the financial and other harm it inflicted on Iowans.”
Elderly Iowans’ Complaints Led to Lawsuit
The lawsuit follows two complaints filed with the Consumer Protection Division.
In March, an 85-year-old Eastern Iowa woman forwarded a mailing promising free psychic predictions that would lead to a lottery win of more than a million dollars. While the Iowan did not respond to the mailing, she urged the Consumer Protection Division to take action to block such operations that, in her words, “prey against the elderly.”
In May, a 69-year-old central Iowa woman filed a complaint after receiving the same mailing and accepting the offer of a free analysis. The Iowan received letters demanding payment and threatening that a collection agency would be “prosecuting” her account.
Lawsuit: Defendants Shipped Subpoenaed Records Overseas
According to the lawsuit, Clements and his two companies control the post office boxes to which victims sent checks. Miller sent a subpoena to obtain victim records and other documents relating to the schemes. But instead of producing the records, the defendants informed Miller that all of the subpoenaed materials had been sent to the Netherlands and were no longer accessible.
“We’re asking the court to give great weight to these attempts to stymie our investigation by sending subpoenaed information abroad,” Miller said. “Such scofflaw maneuvers violate Iowa’s consumer fraud laws, and support an adverse inference on every issue that the missing records could have shed light on.”
In addition to requesting an injunction against future deceptive mailings and efforts to collect non-existent debts, the lawsuit asks the court to require the defendants to make refunds and to pay a $40,000 civil penalty for each violation of the law.
Miller cautioned Iowans to be wary of personalized mailings from strangers offering “free” goods or services that may end up having strings attached. In particular, caregivers of older Iowans are urged to look out for predatory mailing or telemarketing campaigns making too-good-to-be-true promises. “Once predatory operators identify vulnerable people willing to respond to bogus claims, lists of susceptible victims get circulated and losses can mount quickly,” Miller warned. “Stopping the feeding frenzy from ever getting underway is key.”
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 1-888-777-4590.