In what it deems to be a “first-of-its-kind enforcement action,” the Justice Department on Tuesday announced it filed two lawsuits against three individuals who it alleges enabled the facilitation of hundreds of millions of scammy robocalls targeting “elderly and vulnerable” American consumers.
The civil cases were filed against Jon Kahen of Great Neck, New York, who is behind Global Voicecom, Global Telecommunication Services and KAT Telecom, as well as Nicholas and Natasha Palumbo of Scottsdale, Arizona, who own and operate TollFreeDeals.com and Sipretail.com. The department argues that the individuals and companies were “warned numerous times” that they were carrying fraudulent robocalls—many of which originated in India—and yet repeatedly continued to do so.
“[Justice] will pursue to the fullest extent of the law individuals in the United States who knowingly facilitate imposter fraud calls, using both criminal and civil tools where appropriate,” Assistant Attorney General for the department’s Civil Division Jody Hunt said in a statement. “And we look forward to working closely with law enforcement colleagues in India and elsewhere around the world to identify those behind these calls so that we can bring them to justice.”
According to the agency’s allegations, the defendants served as voice over internet protocol, or VoIP “gateway carriers” that essentially offered an entry point for foreign-based criminal organizations to target Americans with “government- and business-imposter fraud robocalls.” For example, Justice alleged the operators of TollFreeDeals.com carried 720 million calls over a 23-day period, many of which were fraudulent and used numbers that were spoofed.
“The calls facilitated by the defendants falsely threatened victims with a variety of catastrophic government actions, including termination of social security benefits, imminent arrest for alleged tax fraud and deportation for supposed failure to fill out immigration forms correctly,” agency officials said. It also added that, in both complaints, “the defendants ignored repeated red flags and warnings about the fraudulent and unlawful nature of the calls they were carrying.”
Numerous federal entities, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service, and Federal Communications Commission, provided data and investigative support in the matter, the department said. Justice’s actions also follow the recent passage of comprehensive legislation that aims to set forward a harsher crackdown on the criminal calls.