The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has asked defendants in a trucking services fraud case to provide the names of additional complainants as the agency determines whether anyone will receive part of a $900,000 settlement, says agency spokesman Frank Dorman.
The settlement, filed in United States District Court for the District of Southern Florida, was reached with James Lamb, business partner Uliana Bogash and businesses they run.
The payment was made by one of them, Excelsior Enterprises International. Bogash is owner and sole officer of Excelsior and DOTfilings.com, one of the entities named in the settlement, says Ari Rothman, an attorney representing Excelsior.
The FTC’s 2016 complaint that launched the case said the four “Corporate Defendants” (DOTAuthority and JPL Enterprises being the other two) “have operated as a common enterprise while engaging in the deceptive acts and practices alleged.”
Lamb insists the companies’ business practices were legal and not deceptive.
Announced in March, the settlement says the FTC can determine if the $900,000 can “be used for equitable relief, including consumer redress” for those who complained they were tricked by the defendants into paying for federal and state motor carrier registration services. The FTC submitted 13 sworn consumer declarations in its 2016 motion for a permanent injunction against the defendants and other relief, said Dorman, and later two more.
It’s unclear how many additional complaints have been submitted in response to the FTC’s request. Lamb said in a May 30 email to Overdrive, “The FTC received all documents that were required to be filed with FTC under the settlement agreement two weeks ago,” the deadline for submission, following FTC’s April 16 letter requesting additional complaints.
Separately, one of his attorneys, Corrine Youngs, said, “James Lamb, DOTAuthority.com, Inc., and JPL Enterprises, Inc. are in full compliance” with the FTC’s request. Rothman said Excelsior also is in compliance.
Lamb and the attorneys did not specifically answer inquiries as to whether compliance included submission of additional customer complaints, and if so, how many.
The FTC will have no further comment on complaint submissions or other aspects of the redress procedure until a decision is reached about making payments, Dorman said.
The agency alleges that Lamb and Bogash scammed thousands of owner-operators out of an estimated $20 million, saying they used “robocalls, emails and text messages that create and reinforce the false impression that they are, or are affiliated with, the U.S. DOT, the [Unified Carrier Registration] system or another government agency.” The FTC also alleged “that many consumers who paid the defendants’ UCR fees were automatically enrolled, without their knowledge” in an annual fee renewal program.
Lamb claims the defendants’ work was above-board, saying he only assisted owner-operators with DOT- and state-required business filings, such as annual UCR filings. He said it was clear that he was acting as a third-party service, not a DOT affiliate, and that the FTC and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration were politically motivated to attack him.
Lamb is perhaps better known for heading the Small Business in Transportation Coalition, whose lobbying on behalf of owner-operators and small brokers includes a current request to exempt carriers with fewer than 50 employees from using electronic logging devices. Comments on the request can be made at the regulations.gov portal, under docket ID FMCSA-2018-0180-0012, through July 5.