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Telemarketer has deceptive past

Last week was not the first time authorities said a telemarketing operation run by Darryl R. Bruggemann had deceived donors.

In 1988, the state of Connecticut filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Hartford accusing a company managed by Bruggemann of "unfair or deceptive" charitable ticket sales.

The lawsuit was settled, and the company paid about $24,000 in connection with the case, although it did not admit to any wrongdoing. Still, the complaint provides new details about Bruggemann's past.

Bruggemann, 33, was arrested last week in Hernando County and charged with organized fraud for running a Spring Hill telemarketing firm that allegedly conned Maryland residents out of more than $200,000. He was released from jail on $20,000 bail.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, Bruggemann's telemarketers asked people to donate to non-profit groups. Donors sent checks that were routed through an address in Baltimore to Bruggemann's Spring Hill operation, authorities said.

Once Bruggemann received the money, he allegedly deposited it in bank accounts and gave none of the funds to the non-profit organizations that his telemarketers purported to represent.

Bruggemann's company _ known as Eagle Marketing, King Marketing and Tri-Star Marketing _ was based in a storefront at 11159 Spring Hill Drive. The business was not licensed for telemarketing and lacked an occupational license to operate in Hernando County, according to the county tax collector's office.

The Connecticut lawsuit said Show Office Inc., the company Bruggemann previously managed, raised money for a variety of charities, including the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Northwestern Connecticut.

His telemarketers solicited for the association, according to the lawsuit, by telling donors that they could buy tickets to allow children to attend a traveling entertainment event. The donors' tickets would be given to charities to distribute.

But the suit said: "The defendant failed to obtain written commitment from charitable organizations that (they) would accept the donated tickets." It's illegal in Connecticut to sell such tickets without obtaining permission from the beneficiary.

The lawsuit also said that Show Office guaranteed that 5 percent of the revenue raised through donations would go to charity. While that is not illegal, consumer advocates said it is an especially low percentage.

The Connecticut settlement included a permanent injunction barring Bruggemann and the company from selling tickets to an event unless they received commitments from the charities to accept the tickets.

According to a 1992 report in The Record of Bergen County, N.J., Bruggemann previously ran telemarketing rooms in New Jersey for a company called Entertainment Productions.

The newspaper said that company often gave charities less than 10 percent of donations it collected, despite promises of higher yields. Its telemarketers also asked people to donate money to buy tickets that would allow disabled or underprivileged children to attend magic and ice shows.

Bruggemann went on to form a company called Showcase, which ran an operation similar to Entertainment Productions, the newspaper reported.

It's unclear how long Bruggemann has worked as a solicitor. He has not returned repeated phone calls, and Hernando investigators said Bruggemann declined to answer their questions.

Several telemarketers who worked for Bruggemann in Spring Hill said they were pressured to get donors to give increasing amounts of money.

"There was a time when I got over $100 in donations," said 16-year-old Thomas D'Alessio, who said he worked for Bruggemann for five days earlier this month. "He'd be like, "If you could do it this day you could do it every day.'

" He said he was fired for failing to raise enough.

Telemarketers were instructed to hang up on potential donors who inquired about the telemarketing firm or the charities for whom it solicited, said D'Alessio and another former telemarketer.

"Darryl was just like, "Hang up and go on to the next one,' " D'Alessio said.

_ Staff researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.