Man At Center Of Vast Phantom Debt Collector Scam Says He’s An Innocent Pawn

We’ve written a couple of times during the last several months about the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts to crack down on bogus debt collectors, operating out of call centers in India, who pretend to be police officers in order to scare people into paying money they don’t owe. Now the man identified by the FTC as being at the center of the U.S. side of the operation says he’s merely an innocent pawn.

ABC News tracked the man, alleged to be the person through whom all the ill-gotten funds were funneled, from San Francisco to Austin, where he refused to speak to them. However, his lawyer wasn’t so quiet on the topic.

The lawyer says his client was just paid a nominal fee to set up a shell company in the U.S. but had no idea his efforts were in aid of any fraud.

“I can tell you, he was as snookered by the people in India as anybody,” the lawyer tells ABC. “He’s a 69-year-old man who is nearing his retirement who thought all he had to do was set up some corporations and everything was on the up and up. He’s completely dismayed that he has become the lightning rod of this entire problem.”

But FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz tells ABC that if this gentleman “was just a cog in the wheel he seems to have been a pretty big cog… It is clear that [the man] was integrally involved with this scam.”

Leibovitz says there are thousands of pages of financial documents and phone records proving the case against this man, who was charged in April of violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

He and the businesses with which he is associated, are accused of bullying people into paying off debts they no longer owed — or never owed — by threatening imminent arrest or other legal action.

The FTC estimates that U.S. consumers have been swindled out of at least $5 million by these scammers.

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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    I was a victim of circumstance the man said as he
    drove off in his blood red 2016 Enzo Ferrari Prototype.

    • That guy. says:

      “Hey, I’m just a regular guy. I like to just read a book, relaxing on my 45 piece Restoration Hardware patio set.”

  2. Velkyr says:

    I wonder what evidence the FTC has.

    Also, if this man has profitted off it it, pawn or not, he needs to lose that money. Any self respecting individual wouldn’t want money that came from that type of fraud.

    If this man was involved in the scam like the ftc claims, he needs to go to jail for a very long time. And he needs to lose everything. His money, his house(s), his vehicles. Everything. Then the IRS needs to audit him for every year he was apparently involved in this scam. This man took advantage of innocent people, and now the government needs to take advantage of their powers to take him down, even when he gets out of jail.

  3. rookie says:

    Initial news reports are rife with inflammatory suppositions.
    Some lawyers will tout, some will poo-poo the charges.
    I feel bad that folks were scammed, but, without proof, and until this man has his day in court, this story is just another carnival barker doing his best to drum up business…

    If the bad guys are in India, aren’t some of those predator drones in that area???

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Won’t work. Guess where the drone support centers are…

    • Velkyr says:

      Sorry, Obama won’t risk it. The ISP’s/Telco lobbying groups have seen to that. They can’t risk losing their customer service and tech support agents.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I’ve read some articles on the people who manage shell corporations for U.S. companies. If it’s anything like the same, then it’s unlikely he didn’t have enough knowledge to put two and two together at some point. Maybe he didn’t understand at first, but I think it became obvious somewhere along the line.

  4. ilikeboomies says:

    Of course this would happen when the majority of our economy is based on debt. Nearly every person in the US is in some kinda of debt it will take them decades to pay off. And all of those people live in fear that they will fall behind and their cars, homes, etc will be taken way.

  5. Velvet Jones says:

    I know I regularly set up shell corporations, at least once a month. I think nothing of it, as I’m sure everything is on the up and up and perfectly legal.

    • wade says:

      It always kills me when people use excuses like that.

      “Uh, no, I didn’t just use this gun to hold up a bank. This other guy who just ran through here asked me to hold on to it for a little while, and, well, he just seemed really trustworthy. I’m the victim here! And, um, please don’t pay attention to this bag with a dollar sign on it. That’s just trash.”

  6. Bsamm09 says:

    “He’s a 69-year-old man who is nearing his retirement who thought all he had to do was set up some corporations and everything was on the up and up. He’s completely dismayed that he has become the lightning rod of this entire problem.”

    First of all, he has to be a principal person in the business to file the article of incorporation and get a tax ID number.

    Second of all, who thinks that it’s normal to have someone get you to set up corporations for them when they could hire a lawyer to do it? It’s not like co-signing for a cell phone.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Exactly, best case scenario in his case is that he helped set up some shady corporations without really knowing what scam they would be pulling.

  7. DrLumen says:

    Set up shell corporations and claim to be a scapegoat for fun a profit!

  8. Zeola says:

    I can’t get any sound on the video link?
    Other programs are sounding fine…

  9. StarKillerX says:

    “…..thought all he had to do was set up some corporations and everything was on the up and up……”

    Give me a fucking break!

    While it’s possible that he’s not actually involved in the scheme, and even if true he had to know that he was helping set up some shady companies, although in that case he wouldn’t have know just what sort of scam they would be running.

  10. DJ Charlie says:

    Bastards called me ONCE trying the “I am a police officer” scam.

    My reply “So I guess you’ll need my badge number to confirm my identity?”

    Scammer: “Your…badge…number?”

    Me: “Yeah. See, I’m a cop too.”

    CLICK!

    And they never called back.

  11. coujo says:

    funny, the US Government can take down a website w/out due process just fine, but they cant shut down a call center w/out enough evidence…

  12. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Please. If you don’t know that setting up a shell company is money laundering and fraud, then you are a total idiot. No way. Asshole. Die in prison.

  13. econobiker says:

    So does anyone think that he just set up the corporations because he received an email about a work-at-home job involving “financial processing “?

    And we can be sure that he KNEW the activity was “legit” since the offshore company 1. didn’t want to use his bank account number, 2. didn’t ask him for his social security number and birthdate, and 3. even SENT him international money orders of money to use to set up corporations in the USA.

  14. Sad Sam says:

    The people who read Consumerist are not the ones who get snookered out of money when debt collectors call. Its elderly, immigrants, uneducated folks who are easy prey for these folks. And honestly, debt collectors call so often and are so annoying some people probably pay just to get them to stop calling (which, of course, has the opposite effect).

    Our home number gets debt collector calls every day, they are looking for some guy Carlos. There is no way to even get legitimate debt collectors to stop calling b/c the debt gets resold every so often and we get a new wave. I’ve tried calling these people back. More often than not, there is no way to signal that they have the wrong number on the auto calls. I’ve tried hitting the 1 to speak to a live operator, but that is really a confirmation that I am Carlos, so that doesn’t work. If I could figure out who was calling and get and address, I’d sue these folks but I don’t know who is calling so we just don’t answer the phone.

  15. varro says:

    Bagmen are part of conspiracies….let’s see what he says when he gets charged with multiple counts of wire fraud….

  16. Velkyr says:

    Thanks to ABC releasing his name and showing him walking around his neighborhood, it was pretty easy finding his address (Confirmed with street view. Same block as this was filmed), phone number, and known associates. All with 411.

    I expect this guy is going to be getting quite a few harassing phone calls in the next few weeks….

  17. Snip says:

    “The lawyer says his client was just paid a nominal fee to set up a shell company in the U.S. but had no idea his efforts were in aid of any fraud.”

    Riiiiight.

  18. dvdcowboy says:

    These guys call from time to time for an ex inlaw. Good to see they are getting the attention they deserve. I guess now I can go down to my small claims court office, pay my $31 to file plus the cost of a certified letter and we are set :)

  19. skakh says:

    Perhaps the sixty-nine year old victim of the bad people in India, will turn over all money he received to the people who are really the victims of this fraud. Also, perhaps his lawyer will work pro-bono.