Two telemarketing executives have pled guilty to a felony count of using a fictitious name as part of a mail-fraud scheme they carried out while selling $40 million in bogus auto-service warranties. Christopher Cowart, 49, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Cris Sagnelli, 45, of Boca Raton, Fla., await sentencing on Oct. 3.
Prosecutors have said Transcontinental Warranty Inc., with Cowart as its president and Sagnelli as vice president, ran the scheme starting in June 2007. A federal judge ordered that the company halt the use of deceptive "robo-dialer" telemarketing calls telling people their auto warranties were expiring and offering to sell them new service plans.
That injunction followed a successful lawsuit against Transcontinental and another company by the Federal Trade Commission to halt as many as 1 billion automated, random, prerecorded calls about auto-service warranties.
Cowart and Sagnelli, who currently are free on bond, each face up to five years in federal prison and as much as $250,000 in fines. Both could face an additional five years behind bars because the crime also involved telemarketing.Update: On 8/31/2011 the FTC issued a press release stating that they were going to be refunding more than $3million to consumers who were tricked into purchasing extended service contracts by robo calls from this company. The FTC Press Release can be found HERE.