Montana Family Runs $70M (€52M) Phone Charge Scheme

They would add charges to clients' phone bills without authorization

By Raluca Anghel on January 22nd, 2013 09:57 GMT

Couple Steven and Terry Sann, along with son Nathan Sann, will be facing federal criminal charges and an action in civil court over a $70 M (€52M) scam involving phone services.

The family's accountant, Robert Braach, also stand to face trial over securing the Sanns financial dealings.

Opposing Views writes that the family ran 9 shell companies, and added charges to clients' phone bills without authorization, an act defined as “cramming.” Voicemail accounts were open for the clients, and electronic fax services were being billed.

The Federal Trade Commission found that customers never requested the service, and some were not aware they were being charged. The Sanns administered over 100,000 voicemail accounts, of which only 12 were in use.

As you can see in the photo attached to this article, a $14.95 (€11.19) fee would be included in customer's bills.

It would be registered as “Miscellaneous Charges and Credits,” and most clients wouldn't inquire or complain about it. The family pocketed over $70 M (€52M) from the extra charges.

The FTC has filed for a junction to stop operation of the companies and freeze the Sanns assets. The civil action has been stopped, pending the results of a criminal investigation.

Steven Sann has been tried before, on drug-related charges. He had been accused of selling medical marijuana.

94 acres of land have been purchased in his name, and registered as the location of a youth camp. The money was deposited into an account under Bibliologic, a religious non-profit charity organization founded by Steven Sann and Robert Braach.

Bibliologic was formed more than 3 years ago. However, it is not registered under an address and includes no members.

Until now, $40 M (€30M) were returned to customers who issued complaints about the charge on their bill.
A $14.95 (€11.19) fee would often be ignored on costumer's bills
   A $14.95 (€11.19) fee would often be ignored on costumer's bills
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