Image: The Record

FCC proposes record fine for robocallers who spammed at least 500 million

The Federal Communications Commission is recommending a nearly $300 million fine for two men accused of running a robocall scheme offering scam auto warranties. 

According to the FCC announcement on Wednesday, California residents Roy Cox, Jr. and Michael Aaron Jones are behind the operation, which made 5 billion robocalls to 500 million people during a three-month span last year. The proposed fine is the largest in the FCC’s history. 

The calls were conducted through their company, Sumco Panama company, “as well as other domestic and foreign entities, and a host of international cohorts located in Panama and Hungary,” the FCC said, beginning in 2018. 

The calls attempted to mislead people into thinking their warranties were expiring and getting them to transfer to a “warranty specialist.” 

On top of making deceptive robocalls, the two are accused of what’s known as “spoofing,” whereby robocallers make it appear as though calls are originating from a local number. 

“Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, spoofing is prohibited when it is done to cause harm – including tricking consumers or defrauding them,” the FCC wrote. “In this case, while many of the robocalls originated from foreign dialing entities, the calls apparently used the “neighbor spoofing” tactic to make the caller ID appear local to American consumers.” 

Cox, Jr. and Aaron Jones are among 22 defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Attorney General in July in an attempt to shut down the operation. The same week legal action was taken against them, the FCC authorized phone providers to block all traffic linked to the operation

The proposed fines by the FCC are the latest in a series of actions to quell robocall operations. 

In 2021, the FCC announced a $10 million fine against Scott D. Rhodes for using “caller ID spoofing,” in which the origin of a call is manipulated to appear local. Also last year, the FCC proposed a $225 million fine for a man accused of running a robocall operation selling short-term health insurance plans.

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James Reddick

James Reddick

has worked as a journalist around the world, including in Lebanon and in Cambodia, where he was Deputy Managing Editor of The Phnom Penh Post. He is also a radio and podcast producer for outlets like Snap Judgment.