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.