Jan 14, 2010 12:36 PM
Phoenix- Attorney General Terry Goddard and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have filed a joint lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Government Careers Inc. (GCI) and owners Jon Coover, Richard Friedberg, and Rimona Friedberg for engaging in allegedly deceptive employment services. GCI's primary office is in Tucson.
The Attorney General's Office estimates that as many as 10,000 people across the country are victims, 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."
The lawsuit alleges that beginning last spring, GCI began falsely advertising nationwide its services as a legitimate government career center to attract consumers desperate to find jobs.
Through its ads, GCI would promise "guaranteed success" in finding government employment in the areas of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Postal Service and Border Patrol. Although GCI advertised that there were thousands of Postal and Border Patrol openings, both agencies had hiring freezes. It was only after consumers contacted GCI, they would learn that the company sells "study materials" ranging from $114 to $119 to help them pass the federal employment exams that GCI allegedly claimed all federal agencies require.
The lawsuit further alleges that GCI contacted consumers who posted their resumes on Careerbuilder.com and Yahoo! Hot Jobs to offer them a $965 employment counseling package which included a company guarantee that the consumer would obtain career counseling and federal government employment. GCI would then tell consumers that they did not have to pay for the counseling until they landed a job. The Attorney General alleges that to the contrary, GCI would charge consumers' credit cards immediately once they signed up. Additionally, the lawsuit states that GCI did not provide counseling services.
The lawsuit alleges that Government Careers Inc. violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and the FTC Act by:
Deceptively misleading consumers into believing that GCI would or could guarantee government employment when it was not the case.
Falsely advertising jobs in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Postal Service during specific time periods when such jobs were not available.
Deceptively misleading consumers into believing that certain federal agencies required consumers to take a written test to obtain federal employment.
Failing to honor its guarantee that they would refund consumers who did not receive federal jobs.
Failing to provide up to date and useful information to consumers in its educational packages.
In the lawsuit, Goddard and the FTC request that the court order Government Careers Inc, Coover, Friedberg, and Friedberg to:
Refrain from violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act and the FTC Act.
Pay full restitution to all consumers.
Pay the State of Arizona a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Act.
Reimburse the Attorney General's Office for its costs of investigation and legal action in this matter.
Permanently enjoin Government Careers Inc., its owners, and affiliates from engaging further in this line of business.
On January 5, 2010, the Federal Court issued a temporary restraining order and permitted the FTC and the State to seize assets to be used for restitution. A hearing is set for Jan. 19 on the preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court in Tucson.
Consumers who have complaints against this company can file a complaint online at http://www.azag.gov/AllComplaints.html#consumer or call Arizona Attorney General's in Tucson at 520-628-6504.
The Attorney General extends his appreciation to the Better Business Bureau of southern Arizona for its assistance in this case.