The Federal Trade Commission sued to shut down an alleged $220 million telemarketing scheme operating out of the Empire State Building, saying it has victimized thousands of people, including the elderly and disabled.
The Tax Club Inc. has duped victims interested in working at home or setting up Internet businesses, charging them thousands of dollars for nonexistent small-business development services, according to court papers filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan by the FTC and the attorneys general of New York and Florida.
“The defendants promise, but fail to deliver, customized tax advice, personalized business planning and individualized business credit counseling, all supposedly provided by experienced professionals with specialized expertise,” the government agencies said in the court papers.
The Tax Club began in Utah and expanded to comprise at least 12 companies controlled by four individuals and run from the 60th floor of the landmark Manhattan office tower, the FTC and states said in court papers. They asked for an order shutting down the businesses, freezing their assets and appointing a temporary receiver.
The scheme has been in operation since at least 2008, they said.
Judith Archer, who represents all but one of the defendants, declined to comment on the allegations. Michael Hartmere, who represents an individual defendant, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Tax Club Inc., 1:13-cv-00210, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).