A New Jersey-based company that sold septic tank cleaning products was ordered to dissolve and pay $1.66 million in fines after the government sued its owners for making millions of illegal robocalls.
Environment Safety International (ESI), addressed to Fairview in Bergen County, made more than 45 million illegal robocalls over a 15-month period between January 2018 and March 2019, the Federal Trade Commission claims. The agency says more than two-thirds of those telemarketing calls were made to numbers listed on the FTC's National Do-Not-Call Registry.
Brothers Joseph and Sean Carney, who co-own and operate ESI, worked alongside their younger brother, Raymond Carney, to conduct their alleged telemarketing scheme dating back more than a decade. In the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, Raymond Carney allegedly formed Carbro in 2009 with the purpose of contacting potential customers to sell ESI's cleaning products -- ESI was their only client, the complaint says.
ESI violated the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule by making robocalls without the recipient's consent, and failed to disclose the seller's identity when making contact, feds say. The millions of alleged unsolicited robocalls were made to potential consumers all across the county.
"Hello, this is not a sales call or a solicitation," the robocalls would start, when in fact, the complaint alleges, the very goal of the company's calls was to sell septic tank cleaning products.
"The robocall message does not disclose the Defendants’ identities, nor does the message state the actual purpose of the call, which is to sell Activator 1000," the complaint says.
The brief message urged a potential consumer to press "1" and leave their contact information to learn "free information" about maintaining their septic system. The feds allege those consumers would then receive calls from Carbro's telemarketers calling from "Activator 1000" to attempt to sell ESI's septic tank cleaning products.
The robocalls continued despite consumers requesting to be placed on a do-not-call list, the feds allege. Sean Carney even directed the mailing of letters to customers with alleged delinquent accounts threatening to involve a collection agency "even though ESI never intended to send customer accounts" to such an agency, the complaint says.
ESI could not be reached for comment; publically displayed contact numbers for the company appeared to no longer be in use.
In a wide-ranging settlement with the Department of Justice, Joseph and Sean Carney were ordered to dissolve their company within 30 days. Additionally, the pair were ordered to pay $1.66 million and forfeit residential property valued at $774,000. Their brother Raymond was also ordered to pay $15,000.
The brothers have been permanently banned from future telemarketing operations and were ordered to contact all ESI customers to notify them that any unpaid balances would be canceled, according to the FTC.