DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller filed consumer fraud lawsuits Thursday against two out-of-state mailing operations that his office alleges are predatory businesses that use deceptive mailings to profit from the elderly and other vulnerable Iowans.
Miller also announced the settlement of a third case involving a New Jersey list broker company that markets consumer lead lists—including so-called “sucker” lists—to mass mailers, according to the AG’s office.
Iowa’s three consumer protection enforcement actions were coordinated with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of the Treasury, and other federal criminal and civil law enforcement agencies, Miller’s office said in a news release.
Officials with the federal agencies Thursday announced wide-ranging enforcement actions—including criminal charges, economic sanctions, seizure of criminal proceeds, search warrants, and civil injunction lawsuits—targeting mass mailing schemes that defraud elderly and vulnerable consumers nationwide.
“Our civil enforcement actions here in Iowa exemplify our ongoing efforts to pursue operations that we allege prey upon older Iowans and vulnerable Iowans,” Miller said. “Fighting this kind of consumer fraud is one of our highest priorities. We’re very pleased to work with our federal partners in this unprecedented attack on mail fraud to help protect people from this kind of financial exploitation.”
In Iowa, Miller filed a consumer fraud lawsuit in Polk County District Court against Waverly Direct Inc. and company owner and president, Gordon F. Shearer, both of Lynbrook, N.Y.
The lawsuit alleges that the company sends Iowans a congratulatory letter from the fictitious “Gerald St. John,” supposed director of the Numerological Resource Center, which, according to the lawsuit, is also a sham. The letter claims that the recipient has been specially selected to receive “life-changing” benefits, which would begin upon payment of a $20 “service/handling fee.”
The second lawsuit, also filed in Polk County District Court, named Nicholas Valenti and three of his companies, WB Co., TL Distribution, and Southwest Publishing, all of Las Vegas.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants send deceptive mailings to Iowans promising to reveal – for a price – methods for consistently winning large sums of money in lotteries and other forms of gambling. The lawsuit also alleges that Valenti sells the rights to use his deceptive mailers to other would-be scammers, according to Miller’s office.
In a separate case, Miller reached an agreement Thursday with Macromark Inc. of Danbury, Conn., over concerns the company engaged in consumer fraud through its role in providing consumer lists to other companies, or list brokering.
The settlement, called an assurance of voluntary compliance, requires Macromark to refrain from list brokering that exposes Iowans to fraud at the hands of scammers using psychic or sweepstakes schemes. The company agreed to pay $30,000 to support future efforts by the Iowa Attorney General’s office to protect older Iowans from consumer fraud. The company denies wrongdoing as part of the agreement.