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- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a fine of more than $82 million against Philip Roesel and his company, Best Insurance Contracts, Inc. (doing business as Wilmington Insurance Quotes), in a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) released on Friday.
- According to the NAL, Roesel falsified caller ID information when making sales robocalls in order to to sell health insurance.
- Roesel and his company “violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by making more than 21 million illegal robocalls to emergency lines, wireless phones, and residential phones,” according to the NAL.
- Roesel allegedly caused more than 21 million “spoofed” robocalls over three months, from late 2016 through the beginning of 2017, according to the NAL.
- The NAL said:
“Philip Roesel, along with insurance agents working for or under his direction, generated leads and sales by apparently falsifying caller ID information to illegally robocall hundreds of thousands of consumers per day. Philip Roesel profited from his own insurance sales and from commissions on sales that his agents made by using spoofed robocalls to generate leads and sales.”
- The NAL explained “spoofing” as follows:
“The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 and the Federal Communication Commission’s (Commission or FCC) rules (Rules) prohibit any individual from falsifying or misrepresenting his or her phone number with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value. This prohibited practice is better known as “spoofing.” Spoofing can cause significant harm when used to facilitate illegal robocalls, which are the number one consumer complaint received by the Commission.”
- The FCC has made it a point to crack down on illegal robocalls, particularly those using fraudulent caller ID information.
- The FCC said:
“Despite FCC and other protections to help consumers avoid unwanted robocalls, consumers still get an unacceptably high volume of calls that can annoy or defraud. One particularly pernicious category of robocalls is spoofed robocalls—i.e., robocalls where the caller ID is faked, hiding the caller’s true identity. Fraudsters bombard consumers’ phones at all hours of the day with spoofed robocalls, which in some cases lure consumers into scams (e.g., when a caller claims to be collecting money owed to the Internal Revenue Service) or lead to identity theft.”
- In June, the FCC proposed a $120 million fine against a Florida man, Adrian Abramovich, who allegedly executed nearly 100 million spoofed robocalls relating to “exclusive” vacation deals.
- “Abramovich received payment for his work, which depended on falsely representing that the calls originated locally (to induce consumers to answer the telephone) and that the offers were affiliated with well-known hotel and travel companies (to induce consumers to pursue the offer),” the NAL said.
- After the FCC proposes fines through a NAL, the named party generally has 30 days to respond, according to legal blog Law 360.
- In their response, named parties may try to negotiate a settlement for a reduced fine and thus enter into a consent decree with the FCC, pay the proposed fine in full to clear the case, or refuse to pay and force the FCC to seek a forfeiture order for the full fine, which may take anywhere from six months to several years.
- Review of a NAL is available through the federal appellate courts.
- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement:
“Like many for whom illegal robocalls are a business model, he sought to hide his tracks: He knowingly used unassigned phone numbers to display inaccurate caller ID information so that he could avoid detection and evade law enforcement. Bad stuff, as far as it goes. Perhaps worse is the gall he evidently paired with his gumption. The record shows that he instructed his employees which consumers to pick on: ‘the dumber and more broke the better.’ He was even quoted as repeatedly bragging and ‘joking’ to co-workers that his actions were minor legal violations, akin to driving above the speed limit. But today, the whole operation hits a big speed bump. We find Mr. Roesel and his company apparently liable for $82,106,000. And we send another message to illegal robocallers who don’t follow the advice of FBI Agent Polk in The Sting to ‘try not to live up to our expectations’: We will do everything in our power to put you out of business.”
- Roesel has not publicly commented on the proposed fine at this time.
Stephanie Haney contributed to this report.