ST. GEORGE – The Federal Trade Commission filed suit against members of a St. George family last month, alleging their companies scammed consumers out of more than $25 million.
The FTC filed a suit against Ideal Financial Solutions and related companies on Feb. 20, 2013. At the Federal Trade Commission’ request, a federal court has temporarily halted an operation that allegedly used an intricate web of concealment to debit hundreds of thousands of consumers’ bank accounts and bill their credit cards more than $25 million without their consent.
The court also froze the defendants’ assets and appointed a receiver to control the business pending trial.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the Ideal Financial Solutions defendants targeted financially vulnerable consumers who had never come in contact with them, and without authorization debited their bank accounts and charged their credit cards, usually for about $30. Those who disputed the charges were told they had purchased something, such as financial counseling or loan matching services, or assistance in completing a payday loan application. How the defendants got the consumers’ financial information is not known, but some consumers had recently applied for payday loans via the Internet, and entities that receive payday loan applications often sell the information to other parties.
The complaint alleged that, to avoid detection, the defendants created dozens of shell companies to open merchant accounts with payment processors that enable merchants to get customers’ money via electronic banking; the processors receive a fee for each transaction they handle. The defendants also allegedly registered more than 230 Internet domain names, often using identity-hiding services and auto-forward features.
To handle the tens of thousands of complaints they received from consumers, the defendants set up a call center in St. George, Utah, and hired a company with call centers in the U.S., the Philippines, and El Salvador. When consumers asked how the defendants got their account numbers, call center agents were unable or unwilling to tell them.
In one instance, an agent said, “l would like to make it clear that we do not have a copy of your application (for a payday loan or other services), but the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and information that was submitted, in your name, as an application.”
The defendants named in the complaint are Ideal Financial Solutions Inc., Ascot Crossing LLC, Bracknell Shore Ltd., Chandon Group LLC, Avanix LLC, Fiscal Fitness LLC, Steven Sunyich, Michael Sunyich, Christopher Sunyich, Shawn Sunyich, Melissa Sunyich Gardner, and Kent Brown.
Not named in the complaint as a defendant is Chad Sunyich, 37, of St. George. Chad Sunyich is listed on his Linkedin profile as an executive vice president at Ideal Financial Solutions, and was arrested on unrelated charges by the Drug Enforcement Administration on Feb. 28. Chad Sunyich, along with Jason Vowell, was arrested in St. George on federal drug charges filed out of Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 20. Florida DEA agents headed the action while Utah agents assisted.
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