Millions of illegal unsolicited telemarketing calls are made each week by individuals who utilize phone numbers belonging to Pacific Telecom Communications Group.
Recently, a sales broker for Pacific Telecom’s services shed some light on how they created a “subsidiary” based in the country of Belize to apparently shield the identity of Pacific Telecom and protect Steve Hamilton, F Antone Accuardi and Fred Accuardi from legal liability, while at the same time allowing them to profit from seemingly illegal telemarketing calls.
Additionally, this sales representative for Pacific Telecom actually provided evidence of his own activities initiating outbound “robo-calls” using Pacific Telecom’s services.
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The irony is that Mr. Sanchez attempts to position this revenue sharing scheme as a way to comply with FCC rules, when in fact it is clear that these services are used by unscrupulous telemarketers who are in direct violation of FCC and FTC rules.
Profiting From Illegal Telemarketing Calls
When a telemarketer signs up for this revenue sharing scheme, they don’t contract directly with Pacific Telecom, but rather with a company registered in the country of Belize named International Telephone Corporation.
In an email, Mr. Sanchez describes this entity as “a subsidiary of the phone company and setup for protection of the investors.” He specifically states in his email that “You are contracting direct with phone carrier.” The “phone carrier” referred to here is Pacific Telecom Communications Group.
Mr. Sanchez says that International Telephone Corporation will pay telemarketers $.00075 per outbound call where the Caller ID data is successfully transmitted. In telecom jargon, these are called “dips” into a caller ID database. The telephone company for the consumer who receives the unsolicited telemarketing call must pay Pacific Telecom for the right to “dip” into the caller ID database in order to retrieve the “calling name” information that’s displayed on the phone. Incidentally, the rate of $.00075 per outbound call appears to be a small fraction of the “dip” fee, suggesting that Pacific Telecom actually reaps most of the profits when an unsolicited call is made.
Mr. Sanchez is well versed in this scheme and summarizes it in an email below. The “ANI” acronym seen in the message is simply a reference to Pacific Telecom’s phone numbers.
Attached are two documents that we need signed, scanned and emailed by back.
Also the rate you receive is .00075 per dip. On 5 million dips, you would
receive a check or direct wire to your account of $3750.00. After we receive
the documents back, your online account is created where you can log in,
access your anis, manipulate your caller i.d. display, and view reports such
as dips by ANI, Dips by Carrier, Dips by Date, dips by month all in the form
of last month, month to date or year to date. Again we are not middle men
but rather sales associates representing the phone carrier, all payments,
reporting and online accounting is conducted by them. You are contracting
direct with phone carrier and that’s a good thing!!
Any questions please call me direct at 815-553-2683.
a division of Virtual Marketing Consultants, Inc.
In a phone conversation, Mr. Sanchez emphasized that proceeds from this scheme are provided in the form of a check or a wire transfer from International Telephone Corporation, which helps to conceal the involvement of Pacific Telecom.
When asked if a telemarketer’s identity will be revealed if Pacific Telecom is forced to turn over subscriber information, Mr. Sanchez writes that “… due to the setup of the company we are all protected.” This is a clear indication that this Belize “subsidiary” is in place to prevent consumers or Law Enforcement from learning the true identity of the individuals associated with illegal telemarketing calls involving Pacific Telecom’s phone numbers.
In fact, when the Tennessee Regulatory Authority sent a series of subpoenas to Pacific Telecom in an effort to learn the identity of the subscribers making illegal telemarketing calls, Pacific Telecom simply provided the name of International Telephone Corporation. The use of this anonymous foreign corporation effectively blocked the TRA’s investigation into these telemarketing calls.
The intent behind Pacific Telecom’s creation of International Telephone Corporation is critical, because creating a “shell” company for the purpose of evading criminal and civil legal liability can in some circumstances “lift the corporate veil” and expose company officers to direct legal liability.
A review of International Telephone Corporation’s customer contract reveals that they are executed by none other than F Antone Accuardi, who represents himself as “Vice President & General Counsel.” It’s no coincidence that in communications with regulators and law enforcement agencies, F Antone Accuardi represents himself as General Counsel for Pacific Telecom.
We obtained this contract in October 2012 from Mr. Sanchez. The last contract revision is dated August 2011, indicating that this latest scheme has been taking place for over a year.
Direct Knowledge of Illegal Activity?
A review of the agreement between International Telephone Corporation and telemarketers shows that it’s the customer’s responsibility to comply with state and federal law:
Customer agrees to comply with all applicable local, state and federal rules and laws when using INTLTEL Services, including, but not limited to, those rules and laws which may pertain to consumer fraud, obscenity, telemarketing and/or “no call” lists (e.g., Part 310 of the FTC’s rules and Part 64 of the FCC’s rules). Likewise, Customer warrants that it has obtained all government approvals, licenses, authorizations, consents or permits necessary to provide the services for which Customer will use INTLTEL’s assigned numbers. Customer agrees to indemnify and hold INTLTEL, its local providers and its database providers harmless from any of Customer’s actions, or actions of Customer’s employees, agents, subcontractors and authorized users, which are not in compliance with any such, rules, laws, regulations or requirements.
While this language may sound impressive, there is abundant evidence that this provision is simply not enforced in any meaningful way. In our previous analysis of FTC consumer complaints, we established that over 200,000 complaints were filed against Pacific Telecom phone numbers over a 3 month period alone. (A larger effort is currently underway to analyze FTC consumer complaints going back to 2011.)
Mr. Sanchez describes how Pacific Telecom actually tracks the number of consumer complaints directed at their phone numbers:
… each client receives daily DNC opt-out lists each morning that must be uploaded to your master dnc accounts. They are generated by people who call back the phone number that appears on their caller i.d. Those that do are told they received a marketing message if you want to opt out press 1.
He provided screen captures of his own web based account with Pacific Telecom’s International Telephone site that show the full range of reporting available to Pacific Telecom and their telemarketers:
Note that it appears that Pacific Telecom and their customers have the full ability to view complaints reported to them by consumers calling back Pacific Telecom phone numbers.
It’s important to stress that using an automated dialer to initiate unsolicited telemarketing sales calls to consumers on the Federal Do Not Call list is illegal with few exceptions, regardless of any “opt out” system that’s in place. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Pacific Telecom and their affiliates are fully aware of consumer complaints, yet apparently fail to honor these “opt out” requests anyway. Consumers who dial Pacific Telecom phone numbers and request to be put on their “Do Not Call” list continue to receive these illegal calls.
F Antone Accuardi has personally received complaints about illegal telemarketing involving specific Pacific Telecom phone numbers. When those phone numbers are compared against FTC consumer complaint data, we see that huge volumes of complaints continued against those phone numbers, suggesting that Mr. Accuardi took absolutely no action to halt this illegal activity.
What’s particularity appalling is that F Antone Accuardi has represented in statements to the Oregon Department of Justice that he doesn’t know the identity of the entities behind the illegal telemarketing calls associated with Pacific Telecom phone numbers. However, not only is Mr. Accuardi “Vice President” of Pacific Telecom’s foreign subsidiary that provides the revenue sharing program, but it appears that he personally signs the agreements with the telemarketers.
Pacific Telecom Representative Initiating Illegal Telemarketing Calls
Mr. Sanchez states that he is an “associate representing the phone carrier.” It is also clear that he benefits from Pacific Telecom’s revenue sharing scheme through his own telemarketing activities that he advertises on another web site, VoiceLeads.us:
Direct Live Transfers … Field phone calls from people that pressed “1” wanting to speak with you anywhere, anytime. Field live calls in your home, office or call center. Clients like this lead because they speak to the prospect live after they opted in by pressing the one key. Talk to prospects while they are in the “mood,” live. This lead is great for selling over the phone or setting appointments as well!
These “direct live transfers” occur when a consumer receives an unsolicited “robo call” with an automated marketing message that instructs them to “press 1” to speak with a live agent.
Mr. Sanchez provided screen shots of his own revenue sharing account with Pacific Telecom. These screenshots reveal just a few of the telephone numbers and caller ID name he utilizes in his outbound unsolicited calling campaigns:
Mr. Sanchez shared during a phone conversation that he conducts “robo calling” to pitch various “insurance” products. In an email followup to that call, he stated the following:
I use live telemarketers on a predicative system that cold calls business prospects. When the prospect answers my telemarketers conduct a survey.
Telemarketing complaint site 800Notes.com confirms this through countless consumer complaints against the Pacific Telecom phone numbers shown in Mr. Sanchez’s account in the above screen shot. One consumer describes these calls succinctly:
Recorded Ad for “Life Insurance” – NO company name or other ID mentioned.
Just to recap, here is what we have learned:
- Pacific Telecom Communications Group has a “subsidiary” in Belize named International Telephone Corporation.
- Pacific Telecom, via it’s International Telephone Corporation subsidiary, provides a “revenue sharing” program whereby they profit from unsolicited telemarketing calls.
- F Antone Accuardi signs the contracts with Telemarketers and represents himself as “Vice President & General Counsel.”
- These Telemarketers make literally millions of illegal unsolicited “robo-calls” utilizing Pacific Telecom’s phone numbers, which earn revenue for both the telemarketer and Pacific Telecom.
- A sales associate for Pacific Telecom appears to personally engage in initiating “robo-calls” using Pacific Telecom phone numbers.
These facts are a clear indication that Pacific Telecom and its leaders Steve Hamilton, F Antone Accuardi and Fred Accuardi are likely in violation of a number of laws, including 16 C.F.R. §310.3(b) of the Federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, which states:
Assisting and facilitating . It is a deceptive telemarketing act or practice and a violation of this Rule for a person to provide substantial assistance or support to any seller or telemarketer when that person knows or consciously avoids knowing that the seller or telemarketer is engaged in any act or practice that violates §§310.3(a), (c) or (d), or §310.4 of this Rule.
The FTC publishes a guide to help businesses comply with the Telemarketing Sales Rule. This is what they have to say about the “Assisting and Facilitating” rule:
Assisting and Facilitating Sellers or Telemarketers Who Violate the Rule is Prohibited
It is a violation of the Rule to substantially assist a seller or telemarketer while knowing — or consciously avoiding knowing — that the seller or telemarketer is violating the Rule. Thus taking deliberate steps to ensure one’s own ignorance of a seller or telemarketer’s Rule violations is an ineffective strategy to avoid liability. The help that a third-party provides must be more than casual or incidental dealing with a seller or telemarketer that is not related to a violation of the Rule. For example, cleaning a telemarketer’s office, delivering lunches to the telemarketer’s premises, or engaging in some other activity with little or no relation to the conduct that violates the Rule would not be enough to support liability as an assistor or facilitator.
Third parties who do business with sellers and telemarketers should be aware that their dealings may provide a factual basis to support an inference that they know — or deliberately remain ignorant of — the Rule violations of these sellers and telemarketers. For example, a third party who provides sellers or telemarketers with mailing lists, help in creating sales scripts or direct mail pieces, or any other substantial assistance while knowing or deliberately avoiding knowing that the seller or telemarketer is engaged in a Rule violation may be violating the Rule.
So far, regulators and law enforcement have not taken decisive action to bring Pacific Telecom and its leaders to justice. The torrent of unsolicited telemarketing calls from Pacific Telecom phone numbers will not stop until consumers successfully make this issue a priority with the State and Federal agencies who are charged with enforcing the laws that Pacific Telecom is accused of breaking