COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to squash a scheme responsible for bombarding U.S. consumers with billions of illegal robocalls.
In a separate development supporting Yost’s crackdown, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is issuing cease and desist letters to some of the same targets in the case.
“Our lives are plagued by robocalls like a swarm of flies,” Yost said. “This particular operation prompted more than 1,600 unwanted-call complaints to my office. It’s time to get out the fly swatter.”
The complaint, filed in federal court in the Southern District of Ohio, names 22 defendants led by Roy Cox Jr., Aaron Michael Jones and Stacey Yim, all of California. Cox and Jones have previously been sued by the Federal Trade Commission for similar robocall practices.
The lawsuit coincides with the FCC issuing the cease and desist letters, as well as the FCC issuing a public notice to all U.S. based voice service providers informing them of the letters and authorizing them to cut off any traffic from the pertinent targets.
“Billions of auto warranty robocalls from a single calling campaign. Billions!” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Auto warranty scams are one of the top complaints we get from consumers and it’s time to hold those responsible for making these junk calls.”
The attorney general’s lawsuit alleges that the defendants orchestrated an unlawful and complex robocall scheme, at times besieging consumers with more than 77 million robocalls a day to generate sales leads. Many of these calls, the suit says, centered on fraudulent “car warranty” plans.
While blasting the robocalls, the defendants also engaged in “spoofing,” or the practice of disguising the information that appears on Caller ID. The defendants created a complex scheme to conceal the call originators by interweaving companies and individuals, potentially even using aliases and fake entities.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of multiple violations of both the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule, including:
- Making unlawful robocalls without consent.
- Failing to disclose the callers’ identities.
- Placing calls to numbers on the national Do Not Call Registry.
- Failing to honor Do Not Call requests.
- Failing to transmit accurate Caller ID information.
- Making misleading representations in the initial robocalls.
Likewise, the lawsuit claims that the defendants violated Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and the Telephone Solicitation Sales Act by:
- Deceptively representing the subject of the call.
- Misrepresenting Caller ID, or “spoofing.”
- Acting as telephone solicitors without having registered as telephone solicitors with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, as required by law, and without having obtained and filed the required surety bond.
The legal action stemmed from the investigative work of Yost’s Robocall Enforcement Unit, formed in 2020 within the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Section. It follows on the heels of letters issued by Yost to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers warning them to better monitor the traffic they carry.
In a related robocall action, last week the attorney general entered into a settlement with G4 Telecom Inc. and owner Joe Putegnat. In that case, G4, a voice service provider, was carrying traffic for bad actors engaging in robocalls, some of whom are named in the lawsuit filed today.
The legal action requires G4 to pay the state $20,000 and stop assisting and facilitating others in violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule by carrying illegal robocall traffic and to implement extensive screening for future customers so it avoids carrying additional illegal robocalls.