Archive for the ‘Litigation’ Category
Defendants Barred From Obtaining or Selling Consumers’ Phone Records to Third Parties
The Federal Trade Commission has put a permanent halt to an operation that allegedly obtained consumers’ confidential phone records without their knowledge or consent and sold them to third parties. The defendants are barred from obtaining consumers’ telephone records without their consent and court orders impose judgments on the defendants totaling more than $600,000 – the estimated amount of their ill-gotten gains.
This is the latest in a series of FTC cases targeting telephone pretexters – individuals who use false pretenses to obtain consumers’ confidential information. Since 2006 the FTC has charged sixteen individuals and their corporations with violating federal law by pretexting to obtain phone records of third parties. All have now been barred from pretexting and all have been ordered to give up the money they made engaging in the illegal practice.
In February 2007, the FTC asked a U.S. district court to order a permanent halt to the operations of a company that sold consumers’ confidential phone records, including information on calls placed and received. The FTC also sued the individuals who had used false pretenses to obtain the records from phone companies and then supplied those records to the company for a fee. The agency alleged these practices were unfair and deceptive in violation of federal law, and could endanger consumers’ safety. The agency also asked the court to order the defendants to give up their ill-gotten gains.
According to the FTC complaint, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides that a customer’s phone records may only be disclosed “upon affirmative written request by the customer.” But the agency alleged that since at least 2005 Action Research Group, Inc., and its principals, Joseph and Matthew DePantes, sold confidential customer phone records, including lists of calls made and the dates, times, and duration of the calls, to third parties, without the knowledge or consent of the customers. To get the records, these defendants relied upon the other defendants, Eye in the Sky Investigations, Inc., Cassandra Selvage and Bryan Wagner, who obtained them from phone companies through “pretexting” – using “false pretenses, fraudulent statements, fraudulent or stolen documents or other misrepresentations, including posing as an account holder or as an employee” of a phone company. Selling the records constitutes an invasion of privacy that could endanger the health and safety of consumers, the agency alleged.
The DePantes and ARG agreed to settle the FTC charges. Defendants ESI, Cassandra Selvage, and Bryan Wagner are subject to default judgments entered by the court.
The settlement and default judgments permanently bar the defendants from obtaining, marketing or selling customer phone records or consumers’ personal information derived from those records. They also bar the defendants from pretexting or using others to pretext to obtain consumers’ information. The settlement order entered a judgment in the amount of $67,000 against the DePantes and ARG, the estimated amount of ill-gotten gains the defendants earned from their illegal scheme; the judgment was suspended upon a payment of $3,000 based on the defendants’ inability to pay. In the default judgments, the court ordered Wagner to give up $428,085 in ill-gotten gains and ESI and Selvage to give up $110,762.
The Commission vote to accept the settlements was 5-0. They were filed in U.S. District Court for the middle district of Florida, Orlando division.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.
What are your comments in this topic?
Jimmie Mesis, Editor-in-Chief
Selected Laws Governing the Disclosure of
Customer Phone Records by Telecommunications
Carriers, a recently released Congressional Research Service report, summarizes the laws, legislation and congressional actions related to telephone call log records. The Federation of American Scientists has a database of some of these CRS reports, which are selectively released by members of Congress.
It appears that a case involving the hiring of an out of town private investigator on a death penalty case may have an impact on how the state pays court appointed investigators.
It all started when a Hillsboro lawyer hired Dave Panter, an ex-cop from Tillamook and an investigator from a nearby county to defend a murder case. However, the state Office of Public Defense Services refused to cover the investigator’s travel expenses from his office to Hillsboro.
The state offered to pay for Panter’s hotel and meals in Hillsboro, but it refused to pay him the standard state rate of $34 an hour for a capital case, plus 40.5 cents a mile for gas, to make the 60-mile drive between Tillamook and Hillsboro.
Since the state has refused, and a Washington County Circuit Court judge is set to decide the issue in a hearing Thursday, May 10.
“These guys haven’t had any raises since the 1970s,” says Barbara Baughman, a Portland private investigator who charges $75 an hour.
What do you think about the fees and expenses associated with court appointed investigator cases?
Philadelphia will be the first region in Pennsylvania to implement an automated inmate release telephone notification. The service, which just covers local jails, will be available to anyone, not just crime victims, when it goes into operation in June 2007. The Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (SAVIN) alert program will add the other counties over the next 18 months, and may later add state inmates.
The Houston Independent School District is the most recent Texas school district to post its payments to vendors online. Expenses can be identified by vendor but not by type of expenditure. Other districts have some payment information online as well.
A law under consideration in the Nevada legislature would prevent sealing of court cases involving high-profile litigants, which the judges had been doing, according to a survey by the Nevada Appeal.
Data brokers who were sued last year by AT&T for purloining customer telephone records have settled with the telecommunications company.
The 13 defendants were not initially named in AT&T Services, Inc. v. John Doe, filed in District Courts in Texas and California, until AT&T was able to subpoena the Internet service providers. They are now named and a permanent injunction disallows them from conducting similar business in the future.
Corporate malefactors angle to “clean up” mentions of their names in court records. The powerful and the fearful each have their reasons… From AP:
Residential Funding wants Heffernan’s claims about who stiffed employees and which name names, stricken from the court record.
The GMAC unit, Residential Funding Co., is the largest secured creditor in Mortgage Lenders’ Chapter 11 case.
In court documents in March, Residential Funding said it wants to erase “scandalous” statements Heffernan made while fighting criminal prosecution in Connecticut for failing to pay employees up to $2.5 million in wages owed when Mortgage Lenders Network went bankrupt Feb. 5.