Starting today, a second round of reimbursement checks will be mailed to consumers nationwide who were victimized by a fraudulent telemarketing scheme operated by Suntasia Marketing in Largo, Florida. An administrator working for the Federal Trade Commission will send approximately $5.7 million to consumers who were charged for one or more Suntasia programs, with the average check totaling $33.17. According to the FTC, between 1999 and July 2007, Suntasia deceptively marketed a series of memberships in buyers’ and travel clubs to nearly one million consumers nationwide.
In January 2010, the FTC redress administrator sent the first round of Suntasia redress checks to consumers. More than 356,000 checks totaling $14.1 million were distributed nationwide (see press release at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/suntasia.shtm). Consumers who received and cashed a check valued at more than $10 during the first round of redress payments are eligible to receive a second check.
The reimbursement checks stem from a December 2008 settlement in which the Suntasia defendants agreed to pay more than $11 million in cash to the FTC and also to turn over various property to be sold, including the Largo facility where they operated their business (see press release at: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/suntasia.shtm).
The FTC charged that Suntasia called consumers to offer supposedly “free” trial memberships in its programs. The company then deceived consumers into disclosing their bank account information and later debited funds from their bank accounts without authorization. Using what are known as “negative option” programs, Suntasia took consumers’ silence or failure to cancel as acceptance of the offer and permission to debit funds from their accounts. In debiting consumers’ bank accounts, Suntasia used several different names, including: Distinct Advantage, Freedom Gold, Variety!, Credit Life, Capital Vacations, Agents Travel Network, Florida Passport, Travel Agents Go Direct, Floridaway, Freedom Ring ULD, and Lucid Long Distance.
Wachovia Bank, N.A., which processed many of the remotely created checks, or “demand drafts,” used in the Suntasia scheme, already has mailed out approximately $33 million in restitution to Suntasia victims (see http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/wachovia.shtm). It is possible that consumers who already received a restitution check from Wachovia may receive an additional check from the FTC claims administrator if some of their payments to Suntasia were processed by a bank other than Wachovia.
The Suntasia redress checks must be cashed by November 15, 2010, after which the checks will become void. These are legitimate checks, and the FTC urges consumers to cash them. They can be cashed directly by the recipients of the checks. The FTC never requires the payment of money up-front, or the provision of additional information, before consumers cash redress checks issued to them. Consumers should call 1-800-427-5290 with any questions.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
(FTC File No. X070036; Civ. No. 8:07-cv-1279-T-30TGW)
(Suntasia Redress 2.final)