In its last monthly meeting of the year, the FCC on Wednesday proposed what officials said was the largest fine ever for an alleged auto warranty scam robocaller — just under $300 million. The operation run by Roy Cox, Jr. and Michael Aaron Jones made billions of apparently illegal robocalls via their Sumco Panama company, other domestic and foreign entities, and a host of international cohorts located in Panama and Hungary, according to the Enforcement Bureau.
These robocalls apparently violated federal anti-robocalling and spoofing laws. The scheme made more than five billion robocalls to more than half a billion phone numbers during a three-month span in 2021. The company used pre-recorded voice calls to press consumers to speak to a “warranty specialist” about extending or reinstating their car’s warranty, according to the bureau.
Consumers used the terms “incessant” and “harassment” to describe the calls. The company called health care workers during a pandemic and spoofed the phone numbers of hospitals. This resulted in confused consumers calling the hospitals to complain – tying up the phone lines of vital public safety institutions, noted the Commission.
In July, the Commission issued a notice and an order that directed all U.S.-based voice service providers to stop carrying specified traffic related to the auto warranty scam robocalls, Inside Towers reported. This resulted in a 99 percent drop in the volume of such calls since June, according to the Robokiller app.
Now, the agency says those responsible for making the calls face additional consequences for their apparent violations. “We will be relentless in pursuing the groups behind these schemes by limiting their access to U.S. communications networks and holding them to account for their conduct,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal.
During the meeting, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the agency worked with its counterparts at the Ohio Attorney General’s office “to uncover the ring behind these calls and boot it off our networks.” She said she wants to move to a Forfeiture Order next “and I hope that Congress will give us the authority to go to court and directly collect these fines from these bad actors.”
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief