PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) - Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has filed a joint lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission in U.S. District Court to protect job seekers from an allegedly deceptive employment service.
The suit names Tuscon-based Government Careers, Inc., and owners Jon Coover, Richard Friedberg and Rimon Friedberg. The defendants are alleged to have falsely advertised, beginning last spring, that their services were a legitimate government career center to lure consumers desperate to find jobs.
Goddard's office estimates that as many as 10,000 people nationwide fell prey to the defendants' advertisements, including more than 1,500 Arizona residents.
"In this time of economic trouble, many consumers who are desperate to find jobs are drawn in by companies promising far more than they deliver," Goddard said.
"This company went so far as to guarantee jobs in federal agencies that were not hiring new employees."
GCI's ad promised "guaranteed success" in finding employment with the National park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Postal Service and Border Patrol. The company advertised that the Postal and Border patrol had thousands of openings even though both agencies were in the midst of hiring freezes.
After consumers contacted GCI, they would be informed that so-called "study materials" needed to be purchased at prices ranging from $114 to $119 to aid the students in passing federal employment exams that GCI is alleged to have claimed all federal agencies require.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges, GCI contact consumers with resumes posted to Careerbuilder.com and Yahoo! Hot Jobs, offering them a $965 employment counseling packing that included a company guarantee that the consumer would obtain career counseling and federal government employment.
Consumers were told that, until they landed a job, they would not have to pay for this counseling, Goddard alleges, however, that GCI would charge the consumers' credit cards immediately upon signing up. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that GCI did not provide counseling services at all.
Other alleged violations of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and the FTC Act by GCI include failure to honor a guarantee that the company would refund consumers who did not receive federal jobs and failing to provide up-to-date and useful information to consumers in its educational packages.
The lawsuit requests that the court order the defendants to refrain from violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and the FTC Act, pay full restitution to all consumers and pay the state of Arizona up to a $10,000 civil penalty for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. Reimbursement for costs of the investigation and legal action are also sought.
The lawsuit also asks that GCI, its owners and affiliates be further enjoined from engaging in this line of business.
A temporary restraining ordered was issued on Jan. 5 by the federal court, which also permitted the FTC and the state to seize assets to be used for restitution.