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Work-at-home program targeting Latinas grossed $ 7 million, according to the United States

The federal government sued a Los Angeles County telemarketing company that officials said raised $ 7 million by making false promises of work-from-home opportunities to female viewers of Spanish-language television stations, exploiting their economic insecurity – and later, their worries. the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, Moda Latina BZ, has made false claims in television commercials claiming that consumers can make up to $ 500 a week selling perfume, makeup and other products without leaving their homes, the Federal said Trade Commission in a lawsuit that was unsealed Tuesday in the US District. Court in Los Angeles.

The ads were typically shown on Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision, during programs that included telenovelas, according to the lawsuit, which also named two of Moda Latina BZ’s executives as defendants. Screenshots from TV commercials showed women holding wads of cash.

The commission said the program began in March 2017 and ended in August this year, five months after the start of a pandemic that disproportionately affected Hispanics. In Los Angeles County, where Moda Latina BZ is based, Hispanic residents were more than twice as likely to be infected with the coronavirus as white residents, according to the latest public health data.

The lawsuit alleges that Moda Latina BZ engaged in abusive and deceptive telemarketing practices that violated the law on telemarketing and fraud and the prevention of abuse.

“Taking advantage of the economic insecurity in the community,” the lawsuit says, “the defendants are tricking consumers into buying work-from-home opportunities with the false promise that consumers will earn hundreds of dollars a week by reselling branded perfumes , makeup, jewelry, designer clothes, fashion accessories and other luxury goods.

The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday night, including one that was left with an Los Angeles-area accountant who worked for Moda Latina, based in La Puente, Calif.

Efforts to reach the company’s chief executive, Esther Virginia Fernandez Aguirre, and her chief executive, Marco Cesar Zarate Quíroz, the two executives named in the lawsuit, failed on Tuesday evening.

The court records did not mention any attorneys for the company or the two executives named in the lawsuit.

To participate in the work-from-home deal, the commission said, potential sellers had to pay a registration fee of up to $ 299, which included a starter kit with perfumes or other products. The company’s telemarketers told consumers they would make a profit of several hundred dollars, but the kits included items that were counterfeit or cost significantly more than those sold in department stores, officials said.

The company regularly insisted consumers provide it with money orders for the registration fee when the kits had been delivered and threatened to take legal action or call the credit bureaus if they didn’t comply, according to the complaint filed on November 30.

A spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission declined to comment further on the situation.

In the lawsuit, the commission said Moda Latina BZ earned $ 2.6 million from consumers who paid with warrants from July 2018 to August 2020.

Seamus Hughes contributed reporting.