NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced a $296,000 settlement with two Monmouth County residents and their companies to resolve allegations they defrauded senior citizens by selling emergency response systems through highly aggressive and misleading telemarketing sales tactics.
The settlement requires that the companies be dissolved and permanently bans the owners from selling such systems in New Jersey.
According to a civil Complaint filed by the State in 2016, Ezra Rishty, of Oakhurst, and Larry J. Ansell, of Tinton Falls, and their businesses Life Aid Connect, Inc., Safety Alert USA Limited Liability Company a/k/a Med Aid Alert, and Mobile Alert, Inc. (“the defendants”) targeted senior citizens in a telemarketing blitz that employed deceptive and aggressive tactics to pressure them into buying emergency alert systems that sometimes were never delivered, often did not operate properly or, in some cases, could not be activated where the consumers lived.
Under a Final Consent Judgment that resolves the State’s lawsuit, the defendants agreed to be permanently barred from advertising and selling emergency alert systems in the state. Rishty is also permanently barred from owning or operating any business in the state that uses telemarketing to advertise or sell merchandise. Rishty and Ansell must dissolve the three businesses that advertised and sold the emergency alert systems and destroy all personal and health information obtained from consumers in connection with the businesses.
“Using deceitful telemarketing practices to exploit vulnerable seniors isn’t just cruel, it’s also illegal,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This settlement sends a clear message that we will vigorously enforce our consumer protection laws and prosecute those who break them, especially those who prey on the elderly.”
“Protecting consumers from being defrauded by New Jersey telemarketers is a responsibility we take seriously,” said Kevin R. Jespersen, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Con artists and scammers will not be allowed to browbeat our consumers into buying goods or services that they don’t want or need or don’t work as promised.”
The defendants represented that the emergency alert systems they sold allowed users to summon medical help via home-based or GPS satellite systems. The systems ranged in price from $159 to $299, and cost between $34.95 and $39.95 a month in monitoring fees.
According to the State’s Complaint, which was filed in Monmouth County Superior Court, the defendants violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”), the Advertising Regulations, and the Telemarketing Do Not Call Law and related regulations by:
- Operating as telemarketers in New Jersey without being registered with the Division.
- Making telemarketing sales calls to hundreds of consumers who were on the federal “Do Not Call Registry.”
- Making telemarketing sales call to consumers even after those consumers requested that defendants remove them from their call list.
- Making unsubstantiated claims that consumers needed the systems because of their “serious medical issues.”
- Selling refurbished systems that were misrepresented as “100 percent brand new.”
- Selling systems to consumers who lived outside the defendants’ GPS service area and as a result, were not able to use the systems.
- Accepting consumer payments and then failing to provide them with the systems for which they paid.
- Automatically renewing consumer contracts for the systems, contrary to defendants’ representation that there are “no long term contracts.”
- Charging the credit card accounts of consumers who, after initially providing their credit card information, declined to purchase the systems.
- Representing that consumers who purchased systems would receive protection “anywhere in the U.S. around the clock 24/7”, when such was not the case.
- Representing that the system “connects with our monitoring center within seconds,” when such was not the case.
- Failing to provide refunds to consumers who purchased systems which did not operate properly or at all.
Under the Final Consent Judgment issued by a Superior Court judge in Monmouth County, the defendants agreed to a settlement amount of $295,545, which includes $206,000 in civil penalties, $8,669 in consumer restitution, $57,980 in reimbursement of the Division’s attorney’s fees, and $22,783 in reimbursement of the Division’s investigative costs.
Chief Investigator Laurie Goodman of the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law represented the State in this action.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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