Ala. telemarketer agrees to ban in Iowa

Bryan Cohen Jan. 12, 2012, 1:00pm


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced an assurance of voluntary compliance on Thursday with an Alabama telemarketer that allegedly violated Iowa's Consumer Fraud Act.

Lifeline Industries Inc. of Mobile and owner J. Michael Zampieri III allegedly made calls to Iowans that were supposedly on behalf of the blind and disabled. The defendants agreed to a permanent ban on soliciting Iowans and denied any liability or wrongdoing as part of the agreement.

"A permanent ban is appropriate because Lifeline showed a pattern of misconduct in its telephone appeals, misleading Iowans into making sympathy purchases of overpriced household goods in the name of the blind and disabled," Miller said. "Our undercover phone line caught their telemarketers grossly exaggerating the benefit to disadvantaged workers, as well as other important aspects of this for-profit operation."

In one alleged instance in February 2009, a company representative selling bath sets, light bulbs and trash bags claimed that Lifeline "only hires the blind and visually impaired." In actuality, only a small minority of employees are disabled or blind, Miller says. Currently, out of more than 40 employees, only one is disabled and one is blind, Miller says.

Another alleged instance in July 2009 involved a Lifeline telemarketer falsely claiming to be calling "for the blind people in Iowa," and said that calls were only made once a year and that the operation was located in Des Moines. Miller alleges that blind people in Iowa received no benefit, solicitation calls were repeated on a 21 week cycle and that Lifeline has never had a location in Iowa.

In November, a man calling for Lifeline allegedly falsely told an Iowa woman that she had given a "donation" of $67 the previous year and urged her to repeat the contribution. In addition, he allegedly falsely claimed that 100 percent of the money goes to employees who are "totally blind and totally handicapped" and that the company had received a governor's award for its exemplary work. A director of the company recently acknowledged that they had not won such an award.

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