Authorities filed suit Thursday against an Anaheim telemarketing firm accused of falsely telling dozens of people they had won trips or cars and then asking for money to pay taxes and handling fees.
The lawsuit against the operators of International Travel Bureau seeks unspecified fines and repayment to victims of about $35,000, said Deputy District Atty. Wendy Brough.
Brough said telemarketers for the now-defunct firm called people around the country, telling them they had won prizes ranging from stereos and vacations to cars and cash awards. The callers then asked for tax or handling fees and, in some cases, a $398 membership to a travel club, she said.
The only prizes ever actually awarded were low-quality watches sent to some victims, Brough said.
"They would be promised one thing and then end up getting the watches after they complained," she said.
Authorities said at least 40 people, most of them elderly, complained that they sent money but got no prize, Brough said.
The lawsuit names operators Salahuddin Ahmed and Scheherezade Nasir.
State law prohibits demanding money for prizes.
"Be extremely cautious in sending anyone money who calls over the phone," Brough said.