Second Family First Life robocall fraud lawsuit filed in Michigan
A second lawsuit pertaining to robocall fraud has been filed against Family First Life in Michigan.
Plaintiff Mark Dobronski initially filed suit against Family First Life and several defendants on August 31st, 2022.
Dobronski originally secured an Entry of Default on Family First Life in November 2022.
This was overturned on February 8th, 2023. The court found that Family First Life was improperly served notice of the lawsuit.
On February 22nd, Dobronski filed an Amended Complaint.
Dobronski’s Amended Complaint names the following defendants;
- Family First Life LLC – MLM company that markets third-party life insurance policies
- United of Omaha Life Insurance Company – “a life and health insurer organized and existing under the laws of the state of Nebraska”
- Americo Financial Life and Annuity Insurance Company – ” a life and health insurer organized and existing under the laws of the state of Texas”
- Great Western Insurance Company – ” a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the state of Iowa”
- Your Senior Care INC – “a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the state of California”
- Khonsavan Vongdara – “a manager for Defendant FFL, and holds himself out as being an agent for Defendants Omaha, Americo, and Western”
- Lewis Friedman aka Luke Friedman – “the owner of Defendant Your Senior Care, and holds himself as being an agent for Defendants Americo and Western”
- Shannon Adams – “employed by Defendant FFL and as being an agent for Defendant Americo”
- Donte C. Grant – “an employee of Defendant FFL and an agent for Defendants United and Americo”
- Olivia Perez – “an employee of Defendant FFL and an agent for Defendants United and Americo”
- Vanina E. Bonanno – “an employee of Defendant FFL and an agent for Defendant United”
- Vanessa Isabel Powell – “an employee of Defendant FFL and an agent for Defendant United”
- Emmanuel Chibuzor Igweh – “an employee of Defendant FFL and an agent for Defendants Americo and United”
- Dario Joseph Wickham – “holds himself out as an agent of Defendant Americo”
- Blake Hunter Scheifele – “a manager at Defendant FFL, and holds himself out as an agent of, inter alia, Defendant Western”
- Paul Ryan Christle – “an employee or agent of Defendant FFL, and holds himself out as an agent of, inter alia, Defendants Western and Omaha”
- Gretchen Louise Drouhard – “an employee or agent of Defendant FFL, and holds herself out as an agent of Defendant Omaha”
In his Amended Complaint, Dobronski claims his residential and cell phone numbers, all of which are listed on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry,
have been besieged with telemarketing calls hawking such things as alarm systems, Google listings, automobile warranties, health insurance, life insurance, credit cards, and even financial miracles from God.
Some calls are blatant scams, including calls purportedly from the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and other government agencies, claiming that arrest warrants have been issued against Plaintiff for alleged drug trafficking and money laundering activities.
Specific to Family First Life and alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Michigan Telephone Companies as Common Carriers Act, Michigan Home Solicitation Sales Act and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, Dobronski states;
FFL represents to its agents that FFL is a superior IMO over others because it has access to “exclusive,” “fresh” leads that are “newly generated” and have “never been used.”
Leads, according to FFL, are potential clients who are seeking insurance products.
FFL also provides its agents with access to automated telephone dialing platforms and services to facilitate telephoning consumers en masse to market the IMO’s insurance carriers’ products.
These automated telephone dialing platforms use a random number or sequential number generator and have the capacity to call persons at random with no human involvement.
Defendant FFL is well aware that the automated telephone dialing platforms and telemarketing activities which it directs its agents to utilize are illegal and violate the TCPA, as Defendant FFL has been haled into various federal district courts by plaintiffs relative to said tortious activity.
Additionally, is well aware of its involvement in illegal telemarketing as FFL has been the subject of numerous complaints to the Better Business Bureau and other consumer oriented agencies regarding the illegal telemarketing engaged in by FFL and its agents.
Defendant FFL is well aware that the “high quality leads” which FFL foists upon its agents for money are of dubious quality and, certainly, not supported by any form of prior express written consent from any of the consumers, as FFL has been previously haled into various federal district courts relative to FFL’s fraudulent lead practices.
Defendant FFL resells the same “exclusive”, “high quality” leads to multiple agents, knowingly allowing multiple agents to contact the same consumers to attempt to sell multiple insurance policies.
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has issued a cease and desist demand to FFL after determining that FFL has engaged in making unlawful misrepresentations to its prospective agents regarding the FFL business opportunity.
BehindMLM covered the FTC’s 2021 cease and desist, noting that it pertained to Family First Life “earnings claims related to COVID-19”.
If you’re wondering where United of Omaha Life Insurance Company, Americo Financial Life and Annuity Insurance Company and Great Western Insurance Company fit in, Dobronski claims they’re “insurance carriers who contract with FFL”.
The Insurance Companies are each well aware that FFL and its agents engage in illegal telemarketing to sell their respective insurance products, but said defendants engage in willful blindness and disregard evidence of said illegal telemarketing as said defendants make substantial income resultant from the aforesaid illegal telemarketing activities.
Indeed, each of the Insurance Companies lend support to the illegal telemarketing activities by giving the agents access to their respective computer systems for purposes of pricing data and entering prospective insureds’ application information, as well as the authority to use the company’s trademark and service market – all hallmarks of actual authority; and said defendants ratify the illegal telemarketing activities by accepting and processing the applications for insurance so received.
The call centers Family First Life and its contracted partners use are purportedly
usually located outside the United States, typically in the Asian continent, and thus usually outside the reach of United States laws and law enforcement authorities.
The call centers, in turn, hire individuals to act as lead generators – known in telemarketing parlance as “ropers” – to pre-qualify called consumers as to whether the consumer meets the qualification criteria for specific insurance products.
The lead generator or “roper” will engage in deceptive and illegal techniques to solicit consumers, including, inter alia: manipulating the caller identification such that the caller cannot be easily identified or called back; identifying with a false or generic-sounding business name; deliberately calling telephone numbers which appear on the National Do Not Call Registry; refusing to provide identifying information to the called party upon inquiry; uttering profanities to or otherwise threatening or harassing the called party if the consumer does not cooperate by expressing interest or providing requested personal information or the called party requests not to be called.
Once a lead generator or “roper” has a consumer who meets the qualification criteria – referred to in telemarketing slang as the “mark” – the lead generator will then live transfer the call to an Agent who will then attempt to close the sale of the insurance product to the consumer.
It is usually only late at this stage that a called party might learn any identifying information as to the source of the telephone call.
Dobronski claims to have “received well over 500 telephone calls from telemarketers” over the past year.
The Amended Complaint details no less than fifty-six documented calls, which Dobronski (Plaintiff) tracked through the use of generated aliases;
Call Number 5
On April 12, 2022, at approximately 3:42 P.M., Defendants or Defendants’ agent initiated a call to Plaintiff’s residential telephone number ***-***-1212.
The caller identification number displayed was [redacted] and the caller identification name displayed was PLYMOUTH MI.
Upon answering the telephone, there was a “boink” sound followed by a 4-5 second delay before a live telemarketer came on to the line and identified himself as “Benjamin with Senior Benefits.”
“Benjamin” asked to speak with “Mr. Simpson.”
Benjamin sought personal identifying information from Plaintiff, including age, date of birth, and address. Benjamin asked Plaintiff to verify that his first name was Derrick.
“Derrick Simpson” was an alias Dobronski had fed to telemarketers on an earlier call.
The call was then transferred to a female telemarketer who identified herself as Olivia Perez, stated that she was a licensed insurance agent, and that she worked for FFL.
Perez then attempted to sell Plaintiff a life insurance policy with Americo and another with United. Perez provided her telephone number as [redacted], which is a disconnected telephone number.
During the call, Plaintiff inquired about the “guy at the beginning of the call who spoke poor English”, to which Perez explained that the male was “our lead generation specialist… his job is to transfer the call to [her].”
At the conclusion of the call, Plaintiff dialed back telephone number [redacted] and received a recording that the number was disconnected.
On another subsequent call with Perez, in which Dobronski had used another alias,
Plaintiff confronted Perez regarding the telemarketer who identified himself as Zack who initiated the call, to which Perez responded that the telemarketer works for her company from one of two transfer centers, one located in Pakistan and the other in the Phillipines, and that they utilize a database of all people over the age of 65 and randomly call the telephone numbers of those people.
Immediately after the termination of the call, Plaintiff dialed the caller identification number displayed [redacted], which was a non-working telephone number.
In yet more documented calls, other Family First Life distributors appear to have provided Dobronski with bogus credentials.
Upon answering the telephone, Plaintiff observed approximately a five (5) second delay before a live telemarketer came onto the line and identified himself as “James” with “Final Expense” and asked for “Derrick Simpson.”
“James” then began to pre-qualify Plaintiff for life insurance.
The call was then transferred to an individual who identified himself as “Chris Martin” with “Family First Life” who stated that he was a licensed insurance agent and continued to pre-qualify Plaintiff.
Plaintiff inquired as to Martin’s license number, to which Martin provided the number “M6071217″; upon review the number appears to be false.
Upon inquiry, Martin provided his telephone number as [redacted]; dialing back the number merely rings
The call was then transferred to an individual who identified himself as “Jacob Taylor” in the “Final Expense Department”, who then began quoting rates for a life insurance policy with Americo.
Plaintiff inquired as to Taylor’s license number, to which Taylor responded 19247602; upon review the number appears to be false.
Upon inquiry, Taylor also provided his telephone number as [redacted].
Upon termination of the call, Plaintiff dialed back the caller identification number display ([redacted]), which was a disconnected number.
Other callers simply hung up when asked for their insurance license credentials.
In some instances, Dobronski initiated what he terms “confrontation calls”. In these calls Dobronski made contact with Family First Life distributors who contacted him.
On August 15, 2022, Plaintiff telephoned and spoke with Khonsavan Vongdara.
Specifically, Plaintiff confronted Vongdara regarding the telephone call identified as Call Number 17 alleged at Paragraphs 158 through 163, supra, and Call Number 19 alleged at Paragraphs 168 through 173, supra.
During the confrontation call, Vongdara represented that the persons identified as Kevin, John Murphy, and Mr. Zion were Vongdara’s employees.
When Plaintiff told Vongdara that Plaintiff’s telephone numbers were on the national do not call registry, Vongdara assured Plaintiff that now that Plaintiff had purchased a life insurance policy, there would be no further calls.
“Mr. Zion” called up Dobronski an hour later.
Approximately one hour after Plaintiff had spoken with Vongdara, Plaintiff received a call on his cellular telephone.
The caller identified himself as Zion Aydin. Zion stated that his broker (Vongdara) had called him regarding Plaintiff having complained to Vongdara.
Zion asked Plaintiff to “just forget about” the incident. Zion claimed that he had 2 children and that his bosses were mad at him.
Zion then told an incredible story about a woman named “Helen” (whom Zion does not know the last name of) who controls his money and pays his bills.
Zion claimed to live in West Virginia; then changed the location to Se-ah-till-ee (phonetic), Washington; then claimed to reside at [redacted] Evergreen Way, in Everett, Washington (which address, upon investigation, is a Safeway grocery store).
Dobronski claims that
For each and every call alleged herein initiated to Plaintiff’s telephone line, Plaintiff suffered the injury of invasion of privacy and intrusion on Plaintiff’s right of seclusion.
It is well settled under Michigan law that corporate employees and officials are personally liable for all tortious and criminal acts in which they participate, regardless of whether they are acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a corporation.
A corporate officer or director is, in general, personally liable for all torts which he authorizes or directs or in which he participates, notwithstanding that he acted as an agent for the corporation and not on his own behalf.
To that end, Dobronski seeks to hold Family First Life and the other defendants responsible.
Alleged causes of action in Dobronski’s Amended Complaint include:
- 34 violations of the TCPA – autodialer call;
- 2 violations of the TCPA – recorded message call;
- 5 violations of the TCPA – premature hang up;
- 25 violations of the TCPA – abandoned call;
- 55 violations of the TCPA – do not call;
- 56 violations of the TCPA – no written DNC policy;
- 56 violations of the TCPA – failure to train;
- 56 violations of the TCPA – failure to record DNC request;
- 34 violations of the TCPA – failure to identify;
- 56 violations of the TCPA – no do not call list;
- 45 violations of the TCPA – falsified caller ID;
- violation of the Michigan Telephone Companies as Common Carriers Act; and
- violation of the Michigan Home Solicitation Sales Act
Dobronski is seeking an injunction against Family First Life and the defendants, an injunction and $694,000 in damages.
On March 10th, Family First Life filed three Motions to Dismiss, citing different reasoning in each motion.
A hearing on the motions has been scheduled for May 10th.
In late 2021, eleven months before Dobronski filed his initial complaint, Family First Life was sued over similar robofraud allegations in Florida.
That lawsuit is still playing out, having been referred to mediation last May.
Yet another lawsuit, filed in June 2022, accuses Family First Life of selling dud leads. That proposed class-action is also still playing out.