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AG Shuts Down Scam Offering Phony English Lessons

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A telemarketing scam that targets Spanish-speaking consumers who want to learn English has been ordered out of business in North Carolina, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Thursday.

"These scammers are preying upon a group of consumers who are new to our state, eager to learn our language and unfamiliar with just how low some telemarketers will stoop to steal," Cooper said. "To make their phony offer sound legitimate, the telemarketers even claim that their victims have been chosen by the government to receive language classes."

Wake County Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand agreed with Cooper's request to temporarily stop F.G.H. International from telemarketing to North Carolina consumers.

In a suit filed Wednesday, Cooper alleges that F.G.H. International broke state laws by deceiving consumers and failing to register as telephone solicitors with the Secretary of State's office. Cooper is asking the courts to stop F.G.H. International permanently and require them to pay penalties.

Named as defendants are F.G.H. International, which also operates as Financiera Gubernmental Hispana and GF&C International and its presidents, Franco Morales and Jhonny Rojas, all based in California.

As alleged in the complaint, F.G.H. International has marketed a program to teach English to Spanish-speaking North Carolina residents since at least the fall of 2001. Telemarketers working for F.G.H. International tell prospective customers that they have been specially selected by the government to receive subsidized language training, but that they must pay a quarter of the cost out of pocket -- a total of $1,200.

The telemarketers sometimes offer a program to train auto mechanics using a similar pitch. In reality, none of the customers called by the telemarketers have been selected by a government agency to learn English or other skills through any F.G.H. International program.

According to consumers who complained about F.G.H. International to Cooper's office, the telemarketers then ask for their credit card or bank account numbers or offer to set up a payment plan.

Customers who paid for the training were not enrolled in any classes to learn English or auto repair. Instead, they received only a videotape and other poor quality materials for their payment of $1,200.

"Hispanic and Latino consumers who aren't as familiar with our state's laws and business practices need to be on the look out for scammers who may try to take advantage of them," Cooper said.

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