by Carolyne Volpe Curley / Carolyne@WestEssexNOW.com
UPDATE: According to the US Department of Justice, Michael Esposito was sentenced on July 25 to:
NORTH CALDWELL, NJ - Michael Esposito, 45, of North Caldwell, was charged today with one count of wire fraud. According to US Attorney Paul Fishman, Esposito was arrested today by FBI agents for "fraudulently using funds that he solicited for bulk medical supply and consumer goods transactions."
Esposito appeared this afternoon before US Magistrate Judge Mark Falk in Newark federal court and was released on bail.
According to the complaint, Esposito was the president of three companies - AME Consulting Group, AME Group, and AG Distributors - all of which purported to deal in buying consumer items in bulk from manufacturers for resale to both wholesalers and retailers.
It is alleged that Esposito used funds received electronically for "payments to apparent victim investors from prior transactions, restaurant bills, and salary for himself" rather than for the intended purpose of the transaction.
During a specific August 2013 incident, an individual known as "Victim 1" wired more than $1 million to Esposito for medical supplies and consumer goods transactions which were never received.
The charge of wire fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Fishman credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant US Attorney Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark. Esposito is represented by Brooke M. Barnett Esq., of Newark.
NEWARK, NJ - New Jersey's Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced Wednesday that 19 motor oils are now banned in the state. The New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures lab revealed in December that each of the now-banned products failed to conform to the viscosity promised on the product label which may result in the risk of engine failure and excess engine wear. The banned products may no longer be sold in New Jersey and any business that continues to sell them will be subject to a civil penalty of at least $100 per container.
Viscosity is a measure of a liquid's tendency to flow and motor oils are labeled by their viscosity fluid rates. The "W" stands for Winter and the lower the "W" number the better the oil will perform in cold temperatures, ie, a 30 oil is thinner than a 40 oil. Hoffman explained that the use of a motor oil with viscosity levels that are either too high or too low for a vehicle's engine specifications may result in the risk of engine failure, excess engine wear, and/or decreased fuel efficiency. As an example, he cited motor oils which were labeled 10W-40 and which the NJ lab found to have viscosity measures that widely varied from the universally defined characteristics of 10W-40 motor oil.
Banned Motor Oils
The products listed below typically sell for about $3 to $4 per quart bottle:
"Many of these allegedly mislabeled motor oils are sold at cheap prices,
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
“We continue to monitor the marketplace for motor oils that are mislabeled
FAIRFIELD, NJ - For the second time, the Fairfield based Telebrands Corporation, better known as "As Seen on TV," has had a complaint filed against it by the Office of the Attorney General and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. The state’s five-count complaint was filed in Essex County Superior Court and asserts that Telebrands has violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act. The state is seeking enhanced civil penalties in an amount of up to $20,000 for each violation.
Online accounts credit the company with being the oldest existing direct-marketing company in the country. It is said to have been founded in 1983 by Ajit J. Khubani. The New Jersey native started the company in Roanoke, VA , and then in 1998 reportedly moved it to Fairfield. The business location is 79 Two Bridges Rd, Fairfield.
From 2012 through July 2014, the Division of Consumer Affairs has reportedly received 340 consumer complaints regarding Telebrands’ business practices. The state asserts the company is engaging in unconscionable commercial practices and is specifically citing Telebrands for violating the Consumer Fraud Act by:
“As demonstrated by its alleged actions,
Over several months, Consumer Affairs investigators made undercover purchases of products advertised and offered for sale by Telebrands, including “Instabulbs,” the “Olde Brooklyn Lantern” and the “Pocket Hose.” The purchases were made through the Telebrands websites as well as through toll-free numbers featured in the company’s infomercials.
Phone System Violations
One of the complaints focuses on the aggressive solicitation of orders places through the phone system. Reportedly when placing the order, investigators could only access an automated phone system and not a live customer service representative. They contend that the during the ordering process which took sometimes over 30 minutes,they were continuously offered additional products to purchase without being able to decline the offer; in one case they were offered seven other products to purchase.
Additionally, prior to authorizing credit card charges, the phone system failed to provide a confirmation for the merchandise that was purchased The state alleges that the investigators were charged for additional merchandise, which was shipped to them at additional cost, that they did not purchase.
Furthermore, the complaint alleges that Telebrands failed to inform their customers of the company's purchase, cancellation and return policies and failed to provide them as well with the total cost of their orders.
Investigators also allege that while placing orders over Telebrand's website, they were not given the opportunity to edit their virtual shopping cart. Reportedly, again this practice resulted in receiving products that they did not want or intend to order.
The state asserts that during the investigation, Telebrands allegedly failed to inform consumers when they were completing their merchandise order and authorizing charges and that they made it difficult for consumers to decline further purchases by using small text and a light color on the “No Thanks” link and they also charged consumers more than the total reflected in the summary of charges.
Merchandise Received Violations
Additionally, the state’s complaint alleges that once customers received the items that they did not intend to purchase, they were not provided with instructions on how to return of items. Those who returned the items to the company were made to do so at their own expense. Consumers reported to Consumer Affairs that they had difficulty contacting and communicating with live customer service representatives and were placed on hold for lengthy periods of time and even disconnected.
The state gave the example of an investigator who attempted to return an Olde Brooklyn Lantern and obtain a refund. In order to do so, the agent was required to make four telephone calls to the Telebrands “800” number which was listed on the delivery invoice; they were once placed on hold for a long period of time and twice disconnected.
After they finally reached a Telebrands representative, the investigator was then told to call another toll-free number, which connected him to the automated phone system. After being placed on hold, the investigator did speak with a customer service representative, who wanted his credit card number; the investigator instead asked for the supervisor and the supervisor also asked for his credit card number. The refund policy on the company’s web site stated that a credit card was not needed.
Automatic Payment Processing Violation
While purchasing the Pocket Hose, the investigator was asked by the automatic phone system to provide an email address. Reportedly, two days later the investigator received an email under the heading of “Welcome to Everyday Family Savings.”The email stated that he would be enrolled in the “Everyday Family Savings” program at a cost of $19.95, which would automatically renew each month unless he called that day to cancel. The state alleges that during the order of the Pocket Hose, the investigator was not informed that he was being enrolled in the “Everyday Family Savings” program.
“This action against Telebrands alleges that consumers were repeatedly pressured
The state is seeking restitution for the affected consumers, plus civil penalties and reimbursement of its investigative costs and attorneys’ fees. The Consumer Fraud Act provides for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation. Based upon Telebrands’ violation of the 2001 consent judgment, the state is seeking enhanced civil penalties, in an amount of up to $20,000 for each violation.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by calling 1-800-242-5846 or 973-504-6200.
Investigator Elizabeth Perry in the Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation, assisted by Investigator Michael Meola. Deputy Attorney General Natalie A. Serock in the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section of the Division of Law is representing the state in this action.