A Roanoke County man and two telemarketing companies placed more than 500,000 illegal robocalls from a telemarketing boiler room in downtown Roanoke in violation of state and federal consumer protection laws, a lawsuit alleges.
Attorney General Mark Herring on Monday sued Bryant Cass, Adventis Inc. and Skyline Metrics LLC to halt the alleged activity and recover unspecified money damages.
Cass declined by email to comment. He referred a reporter to an attorney who did not respond to a request for comment.
The enterprise used automated equipment to extract phone numbers from automotive advertisements on Craigslist, Autotrader.com or similar sites; dial the numbers; and leave recorded messages pitching vehicle-selling services, according to the suit filed in Roanoke federal court.
“If people called back, they reached a telemarketing boiler room in downtown Roanoke, where trained salespeople worked off a scripted pitch to make sales,” it added.
The service, which cost $89, $189 or $289, falsely claimed pre-screened buyers were lined up and promised a refund to any customer who ended up selling their vehicle themselves within 45 days, the suit said. Another claim promised a refund if the vehicle did not sell in 45 days with the special assistance, court papers said.
Unsolicited robocalls to cellphones violate federal law — unless they are to collect a debt to the federal government — and state law, the suit said. Herring’s legal action claimed those laws were violated, as were prohibitions against calling numbers on the national Do Not Call Registry. The suit further accuses the defendants of engaging in deceptive practices and violating requirements that telephone solicitors identify themselves, disclose all prerequisites to obtain a refund and offer opt-out provisions.
Since 2009, the defendants placed hundreds of thousands of calls throughout the United States, the suit said. Specifically, between Sept. 22, 2014, and May 24, 2017, Adventis placed 586,870 unsolicited calls to Virginia numbers alone, the suit said. That was 602 per day, the suit said.
No one answered an electronic doorbell late Tuesday morning at the Second Street address given in the lawsuit for Adventis and Skyline Metrics. A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office could not say how many people worked for the companies or whether the businesses were still operating.
A city magistrate judge authorized a search of the premises that yielded six data storage devices on March 27, court papers said.
M.G. Vineyard, a senior special agent with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, swore out the search warrant after receiving a complaint from a person who paid $189 to what the lawsuit described as an affiliate of Skyline Metrics for help selling a vehicle advertised on Craigslist. The entity, Once Driven, promised a refund if the car did not sell in 45 days, Vineyard wrote. The affidavit said the consumer had waited more than a year for the refund.
“Robocalls have become something that Virginians have to deal with on almost a daily basis,” Herring said in a prepared release. “While robocalls are extremely annoying, they can also be dangerous and could potentially scam Virginians out of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. My team and I will continue to do everything we can to protect consumers and shut illegal robocall operations like this one down.