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Largo marketing firm pays $350,000, settles complaints by Florida attorney general

A Largo area marketing firm has agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a complaint by the Florida Attorney General's Office that the firm obtained stolen consumer information and did not take proper steps to ensure data was acquired legitimately.

Although VICI Marketing LLC agreed to the settlement filed April 8, the firm's attorney said the company is not sure it even obtained stolen information in the first place.

"We don't have proof of that," said VICI's lawyer, Robby Birnbaum, a partner with Greenspoon Marder law firm, which has offices statewide.

VICI did not admit it broke the law, but agreed to take steps to confirm sources of information in the future and to ensure that data it acquires is obtained legally. The settlement was signed by company officers Scott G. Roix, Neil C. Williams and Robert Poitras.

"The judgment sets a new standard for telemarketers by requiring them to ascertain the legitimacy of their data sources through due diligence," the Attorney General's Office said Tuesday.

VICI complies with all applicable state and federal laws, Birnbaum said. But it agreed to the settlement because it "didn't want to fight with the Attorney General's Office," he said.

The civil settlement reimburses the Attorney General's Office for investigative costs related to the case and for future enforcement efforts.

VICI, based at 11515 66th St. N between Bryan Dairy and Ulmerton roads, indirectly acquired data stolen from Certegy Check Services, a St. Petersburg check verification company, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Last year, a former employee of Certegy was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison for stealing millions of Americans' personal financial information from a database and selling it.

The man, William "Gary" Sullivan, sold the information to a broker, who resold it or somehow disseminated it to VICI, the Attorney General's Office said.

From 2004, VICI obtained consumer data leads, including data stolen from Certegy, without taking the proper steps to make sure it was obtained legally, the Attorney General's Office said.

VICI "did not conduct any meaningful due diligence to ascertain the source of the consumer data, how and from whom the consumer data was lawfully obtained, and whether the source possessed any legal right to license or use the data," the Attorney General's Office said in the case.

VICI claims it stopped telemarketing to consumers on or about Dec. 30, 2007, according to the Attorney General's Office. The company, which now specializes in business-to-business sales, will be required to take certain actions if it decides to resume telemarketing to consumers.

VICI also paid $46,500 in fines after the Florida Department of Agriculture's Division of Consumer Services found 93 unlicensed salespeople working for VICI in 2007, according to the Attorney General's case. Some of the telemarketers had criminal backgrounds, including felony convictions for fraud and identity theft, the case said.

VICI also allegedly used consumer information in a telemarketing campaign that used deceptive tactics to enroll consumers in third-party membership programs, the Attorney General's Office said. Monthly fees ranged from $14.95 to $69.95, if consumers failed to cancel the memberships.

The Better Business Bureau, which gave VICI a C rating, processed eight complaints against the company in the last 36 months, according to its Web site.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Largo marketing firm pays $350,000, settles complaints by Florida attorney general 04/21/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 8:42pm]
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