Man Jailed For Ignoring Court Order In Puerto Rico-Based Envelope-Stuffing Scheme Targeting Spanish-Speaking Customers; Translators, Postal Inspectors Assisted In FTC Probe

ponziblotterA man has been jailed for ignoring a court order in a civil case and continuing to operate an envelope-stuffing scheme from the area of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, the Federal Trade Commission announced Dec. 23.

Zoilo Cruz, also known as Zoilo Cruz Carrion, conducts business as International Marketing and Universal Wealth. The case was brought in San Juan by the FTC in U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in August 2008.

Because the scheme involved both the Spanish and English languages,  a professional translation firm assisted in the probe. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also assisted because the scheme involved mail.

Among the allegations were that Cruz told prospects that they could make substantial sums of money by stuffing envelopes at home and that his company would provide stamped, addressed envelopes for them to stuff.

Cruz charged a fee of $37 for customers to enter the program, according to court filings.

Customers were deceived into paying the $37 by ads that suggested they could make between $690 and $2,760 a week, according to court filings.

zoilocruzinternationalmarketing

After customers paid the fee, International Marketing sent them a sales pamphlet, titled ‘Incredible Home Mailing Program (IHMP),'” the FTC said. The program was advertised in Spanish, but the pamphlet received by customers was in English-only.

But language was not the only barrier customers encountered, the FTC said.

Only after receiving the pamphlet were customers told that, “instead of receiving
envelopes and payment from International Marketing for stuffing envelopes, consumers must engage in one of two marketing schemes, both of which involve publishing advertisements to sell the IHMP itself,” the FTC said. “In other words, each scheme aims to have consumers publish advertisements to sell the same pamphlet [Cruz] sent them (i.e., the IHMP) to other consumers.”

Investigators said Cruz “kept up the scam despite a December 2008 court order that barred him from deceiving consumers and required him to close the post office boxes he used for taking orders.”

In December 2008, U.S. Senior District Judge Jaime Pieras Jr. enjoined Cruz from breaking the law, finding that he had engaged in false and misleading business practices.

“The pamphlet instructs consumers to advertise a work-at-home opportunity and provides consumers with sample advertisements that contain false and misleading earnings claims,” Pieras ruled.

“[It] also instructs consumers to place a toll-free telephone number in the advertisement to receive inquiries,” Pieras continued. “The pamphlet provides consumers a script to use in recording a voicemail message. The script falsely states that one can earn money for stuffing envelopes and that the consumer leaving the message has been successful in earning money before he or she has earned any money at all.”

As the investigation proceeded, the FTC determined that Cruz had made at least $64,496.51 from the scheme and used an account at Eurobank to deposit the proceeds.

In June 2009, Pieras issued a judgment in the FTC’s favor for that amount, further ordering the restitution “immediately due and payable” from Cruz.

“A federal court has jailed [Cruz],” the FTC said Wednesday.

Here is an ad for the scheme that appeared in a Spanish-language newspaper:

TRABAJE EN CASA – Le dedico mas
tiempo a mis hijos todo los dias!
Gane Dinero extra $500-$1,500.
PO Box 43001 Dept. 486 Rio
Grande PR 00745-6600 o a
internationalmarketing123.com

And here is the English-language translation:

WORK AT HOME – I devote more
time to my children every day!
Earn Extra Money. $500 – $1,500.
PO Box 43001 Dept. 486 Rio
Grande PR 00745-6600 or at
internationalmarketing123.com

The translation service also translated the Spanish-language website to English, according to court filings.

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