Brandes and Graham reportedly ran a fraudulent direct mail operation based in Kansas City, Missouri.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced recently that his office, in partnership with the Federal Trade Commission, has brought an action against Kevin Brandes, William Graham, and 10 of their companies including Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. and Next-Gen, Inc.
Brandes and Graham reportedly ran a fraudulent direct mail operation based in Kansas City, Missouri. This operation took in around $30 million per year, from mostly elderly victims. The scheme targeted people in Missouri, nationwide, and other countries. The defendants sent mailers that falsely represented consumers had won, or were likely to win, a substantial cash prize in exchange for paying a series of fees. No one ever won a significant prize. The mailers communicated urgency, such as warning that consumers they must “respond quickly to avoid forfeiture of this Prize Opportunity.” The mailers also provided a false veneer of authenticity by means such as appearing to be a stock certificate or using signatures with lofty titles like “Senior Director of Payments.”
“Our office seeks to shut down one of the largest direct mail schemes in the country,” Hawley said. “The defendants targeted on elderly victims for years. My office will aggressively pursue deceitful and dishonest businesses that prey upon our senior citizens.”
Assistant Attorneys General Nathan Atkinson and Bob Carlson prosecuted the case on behalf of the Attorney General's Office in connection with the Federal Trade Commission. Investigators Carrie Ahart and Shelly Land led the investigation for the Attorney General’s Office. This action was filed in conjunction with the Department of Justice as part of their enforcement sweep aimed at stopping illegal schemes that exploit elderly Americans. For more information on these actions, visit www.ftc.gov.
Attorney General Hawley recommends the following tips to avoid direct mail scams:Legitimate companies will never ask you to pay fees to participate to receive a prize. You should never have to pay handling charges, service fees, or any other kind of charges up front to receive a win – those are sure signs of a scam. Direct mailers that offer a chance to win do not need to withdraw money from your bank or verify information using your credit card number. Never give out your personal information. The mail you receive may look official—as if it was truly sent from a government agency. Carefully read the material inside the envelope to determine if it is really from a government agency. Research the information enclosed and the agency if necessary.
Missourians who believe they may have been the victim of any scam are encouraged to file a complaint by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 or by submitting a claim online.