Erie County Company Shut Down For Selling
Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has secured $110,000 in restitution and civil penalties from three Erie County individuals who targeted senior citizens through a telemarketing scam involving the sale of winning lottery numbers.
Michael J. Geiger and Michael D. Marranca, the owners of Multi-Plays of America, Inc. and the company's general manager, Noelle M. Alessandra, all consented to the court order that permanently bars them from telemarketing to consumers or for charitable purposes in New York State.
"Consumers lose an estimated $40 billion a year to telemarketing fraud," Spitzer said. "It is especially egregious when scam artists target vulnerable seniors."
Spitzer's investigation revealed that the defendants operated a fraudulent telemarketing business which offered for sale numbers which were purported to be "most likely" to win various lotteries throughout the country.
Using so-called "sucker lists" - lists of consumers who had been defrauded by telemarketers in the past - the defendants called elderly consumers with offers to sell "likely winning lottery numbers" when, in fact, the real purpose was to gain authorization to electronically debit the consumer's checking account.
The scam began when seniors received telemarketing calls falsely telling them they had been "selected to receive the most likely winning combinations of the Lottery." The caller claimed that the company's "scientific formula" provided the most likely winning lottery combinations.
The telemarketer would further entice consumers with an offer of a one-week $39.99 trial package containing the winning combination numbers along with a coupon book, which generally turned out to be of minimal value, consisting largely of offers to "buy-one-get-one free" and for pre-paid credit cards.
Once the telemarketers gained authorization to access the individual's checking account, it debited not only the initial $39.99, but also continued to charge a monthly fee of $149.99 which was electronically withdrawn from the consumer's checking account.
At least 40 consumers, or in the case of some elderly individuals, their caretakers or relatives, have filed complaints against Multi-Plays since 2002. Prior to this agreement Spitzer's office successfully mediated many of those complaints.
In settling the matter, Geiger and Marranca agreed to pay $100,000 and Alessandra agreed to pay $10,000. With those monies, Spitzer's office will establish a restitution fund of $80,000 from which refunds may be made to any consumer who requests a refund from Multi-Plays. The remaining $30,000 will cover civil penalties and costs of the investigation.
Any consumer wishing to obtain a refund from Multi-Plays through this settlement should file a complaint with the Attorney General's office within 90 days. To obtain a complaint form, consumers should call the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755 or to visit the office's website at www.ag.ny.gov.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Dennis Rosen and Senior Investigator Peter J. Eiss of the Buffalo Regional Office.