Consent judgment bars TCA Mailing Inc. and owner, Timothy Clements, from helping scammers bilk Iowans
DES MOINES – Two New Jersey companies and their owner will pay $45,000 to Iowa consumers and the state, as part of a settlement that bars them from any role in sending future fraudulent solicitations to Iowans.
The settlement, through a consent judgment filed in Polk County District Court, resolves a consumer fraud lawsuit filed last year by Attorney General Tom Miller. The lawsuit alleged that TCA Mailing Inc. and T. Clements & Associates Inc., both of Clifton, New Jersey, and the companies’ owner Timothy J. Clements, of Bordentown, New Jersey, helped facilitate marketing, billing and debt collections in Iowa on behalf of a sham European psychic operation.
According to Miller’s lawsuit, the defendants coordinated with the fraudulent operations in sending Iowa consumers, particularly older Iowans, mailings from “Josef von Jalen,” a supposed psychic offering free help.
“The fraud that we alleged these defendants helped perpetrate was especially vicious in the harm it inflicted on elderly people,” Miller said. “An initial mailing lured victims with promises of a free psychic analysis, followed by a series of letters with escalating threats, demanding payment for what had been offered for free. Victims of this menacing conduct suffered both emotionally and financially.”
The lawsuit also alleged that Clements attempted to thwart Miller’s consumer fraud investigation by shipping documents overseas after Miller’s office subpoenaed them, thus putting them out of reach.
Two Older Iowans Alerted Consumer Protection Division
Last year, two older Iowans alerted the Consumer Protection Division about the allegedly fraudulent solicitations.
An 85-year-old Eastern Iowa woman forwarded a mailing she received promising free psychic predictions that would result in lottery winnings of more than a million dollars. The woman did not fall prey, but alerted the Consumer Protection Division over concerns that the mailings, in her words, “prey against the elderly.”
A 69-year-old central Iowa woman filed a complaint after accepting the same offer of a free analysis, and was then the target of demands for payment threatening that a collection agency would be “prosecuting” her account.
Victims were instructed to send checks to post office boxes controlled by Clements and his companies.
Clements Dumped Subpoenaed Documents Overseas
Miller sought information about the alleged scam though subpoenas, including the names of Iowa victims. Instead of producing the records, Clements shipped them to a European agent of a Swiss company called Regency Direct Marketing AG, which Miller alleges had a key role in the fraudulent scheme.
“This settlement ensures that Clements pays a significant price for his scofflaw maneuver to stymie our investigation,” Miller said, adding that the defendants deny wrongdoing but agree to pay the state $45,000. “The payment is for restitution and future enforcement of Iowa’s consumer protection laws, and the judgment also bars these defendants from supporting other scams that target Iowans in the future.” Miller also noted that the agreement requires the defendants to cooperate fully with any future “reasonable” requests from his office.
Miller urges Iowans who sent money in response to the “Josef von Jalen” mailing and seek a refund to contact the Consumer Protection Division.
Miller cautions 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 consumers are identified as vulnerable by one set of scammers, their names end up on lists that get used by other scammers,” Miller warns. “A feeding frenzy can take hold that inflicts a lot of financial loss, so it’s vital to keep this cycle from starting.”
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 888-777-4590.