INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The Indiana attorney general’s office sued three companies – including one that operated out of a trailer park – over allegations they helped to illegally route hundreds of millions of calls automated to American households seeking to carry out various scams.
In the lawsuit filed in Indiana federal court on Thursday, the attorney general’s office said the companies had facilitated calls from con artists operating from India, the Philippines and Singapore. The robocalls have reportedly included attempted scams such as IRS and Social Security Administration impostor scams, fraudulent Apple IT support calls, and fake Amazon subscription contacts.
A company based in Evansville, Indiana named Startel Communication LLC, which had its business address in a trailer park, served as a gateway for overseas calls to enter the country, said the Attorney General of the State, Todd Rokita.
The now defunct company has arranged with two California telecommunications companies to route robocalls nationwide, Rokita said. The lawsuit accuses Piratel LLC of Los Alamitos, Calif. Of routing at least 3.1 million automated calls to numbers in Indiana alone and that VoIP Essential LLC of Fremont, Calif., Routed 1.3 million calls to Indiana.
“The two California companies knew that Startel was sending robocalls against Indiana and federal law, and the two companies each received over $ 100,000 to look away,” Rokita said.
Piratel said in a statement that it is following telecommunications industry procedures and has worked with federal and state governments to identify and stop illegal robocalls. The company said it had not reviewed the lawsuit and declined to comment on its claims.
The Associated Press sent a message seeking comment to the email address listed for the last agent registered with Startel’s business registration in Indiana. No response was immediately received to an email message sent to VoIP Essential.
Officials in Indiana said California businesses had been warned about robocalls during their investigation over the past year.
Doug Swetnam, head of the Indiana Attorney General’s data privacy unit, said companies weren’t “surprised by a few bad apples.”
“This is a situation where the industry itself was sending them message after message saying ‘Hey, you’re letting the bot calls go,’ and they didn’t do anything about it,” Swetman said. .
The companies involved could face billions of dollars in fines due to the large number of appeals involved, according to the lawsuit.
Startel, which was registered in the name of an Evansville woman and an Indian man, was dissolved last month, according to state business registration records.
Rokita said investigators are still studying how the business works and whether it is possible to seek judgment against it.
“You don’t walk into a trailer park and decide to create a fairly complex national telecommunications company,” Rokita said. “Someone must have told them something.”