Phoenix, Arizona - Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced today that his office obtained a more than $6 million dollar judgment in restitution and civil penalties against a telemarketing enterprise that bilked millions of dollars from consumers nationwide.
A judge found Chalonne Foerster, Blain Scribner, and Vanessa Fitzgerald violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and the Arizona Telephone Solicitation Statute. The court also found the three defendants along with Kyle Evans (Chalonne Foerster’s husband) and Patrick Passarelli (Vanessa Fitzgerald’s husband) were members of an unlawful enterprise that engaged in racketeering activities.
The judgment concludes a Consumer Fraud Lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s Office that named 13 defendants and nine corporations. Together, the defendants operated a fraudulent scheme using various names, including Economic Freedom Corporation, Franklin Financial Marketing, BES Enterprises, CGF Enterprises, F Marketing, Fast Website Marketing, Pro Marketing, and Scribner Marketing.
From 2009 until the State shut the businesses down in July 2012, the defendants sold websites to consumers, at a cost between $250 and $500. They claimed their customers would earn substantial commissions by selling credit card processing equipment and services from their websites. Consumers who purchased a website from one member of the fraudulent enterprise were then telephoned by a second member. Using high-pressure sales techniques, defendants convinced consumers to spend thousands of dollars on “advertising packages.”
The defendants claimed those “advertising packages” included leads, e-mail blasts, and call blasts. Defendants claimed buying the “advertising packages” would allow consumers to recoup their investment within a month or two. Consumers who purchased defendants’ websites and advertising packages quickly learned that defendants’ program was a fraud.
More than 350 consumers filed complaints with the Attorney General’s Office after they failed to earn the promised commissions. Instead of paying commissions, defendants left their customers with substantial credit card debt and/or empty bank accounts. Defendants typically victimized elderly consumers who live on fixed incomes and could not afford to lose the monies that they paid to defendants.
The ruling ordered the defendants to pay a total of $897,946.00 in consumer restitution. Three of the defendants - Blain Scribner, Vanessa Fitzgerald, and Chalonne Foerster were also ordered to each pay $760,000.00 in civil penalties.
The Court assessed treble damages in the amount of $2,693,838.42 and attorneys’ fees and costs of $163,587.00. All defendants also are banned from engaging in telemarketing and the sale of business opportunities in the future.
The State previously obtained judgments or entered into settlements with the other defendants named in the lawsuit.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Nancy V. Anger.