Daniel Carrasco, Federico Martin Gioja, and Romino Tasso, Miramar, Florida businessmen, were just indicted on charges of fraud, extortion, and conspiracy, a press release by the Federal Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida indicates. The defendants are accused of telling customers that their companies were Spanish-speaking television station affiliate to defraud customers. Carrasco, 54, and Gioja, 45, were originally charged in late June; it is unclear whether Tasso has been apprehended. It is also not yet known whether Carrasco and Gioja have qualified for bail bond. The press did not specify an defense attorney for any of the defendants.
According to reports, Carrasco and Gioja operated companies that purported to be affiliates with Univision, a Spanish-speaking television network. From their companies, Carrasco and Gioja would offer customers the opportunity to buy numerous products, including vitamins, lotions, medical insurance and English-language training products, the indictment alleges. The defendants did not have most of the products they were offering, and would instead send customers products different than what was ordered, reports say. These sales were purportedly accomplished through a telemarking service based in Argentina.
When customers received the incorrect products, they would sometimes refuse to accept the packages and file complaints against the defendants’ companies. In return, the telemarketers allegedly told customers that if they did not pay they would face consequences such as deportation, arrest, or even fines on their gas and electric bills. None of the threats were legitimate, sources say. After one of Carrasco and Gioja’s companies received too many complaints, the defendants would declare the company “burnt” and start a new company that practiced the same type of scam, the indictment claims.
“These defendants specifically targeted Spanish-speaking victims, pretending to be affiliated with Univision, to sell their products from their phone room in Argentina, when in fact, they had absolutely no connection to Univision, and their companies did not deliver the products consumers ordered,” a U.S. Attorney spokesperson for the Southern District of Florida said. It is not clear just how many people became victims of the purported scam, nor is it known whether a class-action lawsuit may ensue.
The investigation started after Univision told the United States Postal Inspection Service that Carrasco and Gioja may be falsely misrepresenting themselves as an affiliate to sell fraudulent goods, reports say.
“Postal inspectors will continue to investigate cases involving fraud against consumers and will vigorously pursue those individuals who use the mail to further their criminal schemes,” a U.S. Postal Inspector spokesperson in Charge in Miami said.
Following Carrasco and Gioja’s arrest, the U.S. Justice Department asked that the court issue an injunction against the defendants’ companies in order freeze their assets and stop the scheme from re-occurring, which it did. “We will use every tool at our disposal, including asset freezes, injunctive relief and criminal prosecution, against companies that lie to, extort, threaten and defraud consumers,” an Acting Assistant Attorney General spokesperson for the Justice Department’s Civil Division said. “Protecting Americans from fraud continues to be a top priority for the Department of Justice.”