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Judge Freezes Accounts of Telemarketer

From Associated Press

A judge in Iowa froze bank accounts of an Orange County telemarketer this week after state officials there used a telephone sting to build a case against the company.

The Iowa attorney general’s office filed suit in Polk County District Court on Thursday contending that solicitors misled Iowans who paid the company thousands of dollars on a promise of receiving valuable prizes.

A judge immediately issued an order freezing the company’s accounts at four California banks, prohibiting its representatives from contacting Iowans and prohibiting the removal or destruction of any of the company’s business records.

Defendants in the suit are MB Promotions Inc. of Buena Park, which does business as Clean Earth Industries; and Michele Brunmier, president of MB Promotions and president and owner of Clean Earth Industries.

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Brunmier was ordered to appear at an Aug. 26 hearing in Polk County District Court by Judge J.W. Jordan, who issued Thursday’s temporary restraining order.

Atty. Gen. Bonnie Campbell said Clean Earth targeted elderly Iowans and told them they would receive valuable prizes if they would send the company money for products such as air purifiers, cosmetics and cleaning supplies.

Evidence was collected through a sting operation set up after a Waukee bank told the attorney general’s office in October, 1993, that a customer, Rita Hierstein, 80, was a repeated victim of telemarketing fraud.

She was given a new, unlisted telephone number, and her old number was channeled to the attorney general’s consumer protection division, which recorded the telemarketing calls.

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According to an affidavit from investigator Barbara A. White, Clean Earth called the number six times between March 11 and March 21, and solicitors made their pitches to consumer protection employees posing as Hierstein.

The suit contends that Clean Earth told consumers they were celebrities and had reached the “super grand finals” in the award promotion. It further alleges the company told consumers that, in return for buying products, they could choose two of five prizes: $15,000, $2,500, eight ounces of gold, a JFK coin cachet and a 35mm camera.

“The existence of the undercover telephone sting tapes allows us to prove beyond question that these allegedly false and misleading statements were in fact made by company solicitors,” Campbell said.

The tapes show that the pitches from solicitors “deviate routinely and markedly” from telemarketing scripts the company filed with California regulators, the suit alleges.

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