FTC goes after St. George family, businesses for alleged consumer scam that raked in over $25 million

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.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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  • Big Don March 7, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I have very mixed feelings on this. First off, I’m happy to see the FTC (or somebody, anyway,) going after these operations. I just hate it that we seem to be a “rip off headquarters,” here in Dixie.

    OTOH, I am bothered by the feds seizing property PRIOR to due process. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

    • Snowfield March 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      I’m assuming that the credit card companies have already lost enough money via the fraudulent charges that were not initiated by the victims and had to be refunded that they are able to prove the loss and seize the assets.

    • Karen March 7, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      We are already “rip-off” headquarters in Dixie. This story is dwarfed by the grand jury indictment yesterday of Jeremy Johnson and 4 of his friends with 85 counts in total for their IWorks scam. That one has made national news. (I wonder why stgnews has reported it yet?)

      As to seizing property, it is lawful especially where Jeremy was concerned. In 2010 he was asked by the FTC to preserve his assets due to a pending investigation. He didn’t and ended up gambling away millions and also hiding assets. (This is all in the public record of the receiver and the FTC). So, the FTC appeared before a judge with their evidence and his assets were frozen. The receiver has custody of those assets that they could find and has sold some to pay their own bills during the investigation and because some were difficult to maintain. A federal judge has approved each step. What will happen to the remaining assets depends on the criminal trial of Jeremy and his friends.

  • DoubleTap March 7, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Big Don: How is it that you are “bothered by the feds seizing property PRIOR to due process” ?

    These idividuals were seizing money without PRIOR authorization from consumers. This just “doesn’t
    seem right”….it downright ISN’T right!! And yes, it is about time that these various so-called business’
    do get investigated and put a stop to their continued criminal enterprises. They prey on the consumers,
    take advantage of them. This is type of criminal activty is not occuring only here in “Dixie”, this is something that is happening nationwide. Especially due to the economic downturn everywhere. Greed is rampant and those with no morals, who lack ethics in business will continue to flagrantly defraud and steal from consumers in every part of nation. I sincerely hope those who are found guilty will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  • m March 8, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Thank God! I was getting constant calls from these guys. I had never got an online payday loan but had done research on them for a term paper. When I tried telling them I never took a loan, they would call me names, threaten me with jail time, etc. But I know that if they can’t or won’t mail me an actual bill, it’s BS. I reported all the numbers that were used. Some came from here in St. George, others from a NY number. So happy they finally got shut down! Also, it was super hilarious hearing a guy with a very thick latin or middle eastern accent tell me his name was “Shawn Jones.”

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