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TEMPE FIRM ORDERED TO HALT ITS TELEMARKETING OPERATION

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A Tempe firm that allegedly claimed it was affiliated with the state attorney general's office and could help consumers defrauded by telemarketing companies has been ordered to halt operations.

Judge Elizabeth Stover of Maricopa County Superior Court issued the order Thursday against Universal Recovery Consulting Services Inc., at the request of Attorney General Grant Woods.Woods filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing the company and its owners of consumer fraud.

Eric Roman, one the company's four listed owners, said Woods' charges "are a total fabrication" and that Universal is a legitimate business.

The suit charges that Universal bought phone lists from other telemarketing firms and then called consumers and pretended to be associated with the attorney general's Consumer Fraud Division.

Universal employees offered to help consumers recover their money for a fee and, in some cases, told people that the attorney general had raided certain telemarketers and frozen their assets, the suit says.

The suit also says Universal told customers it had placed liens on the assets of fraudulent telemarketers and would start recovering the money in 10 days.

"Our office does not contract with any private companies to recover funds," said Woods. He said Universal "did nothing more than send demand letters to telemarketers, which cost consumers between several hundred and several thousand dollars."

Woods said his office, which was assisted by the FBI in its investigation, is seeking a permanent restraining order to keep Universal shut down and to have the company assessed $10,000 per violation of the state Consumer Fraud Act.

"This is the lowest of the low," Woods said. "Taking someone who has been ripped off, and defrauding him again under the guise of extending a helping hand is the worst."

But Roman said his company "helped little old ladies get their money back, and that's good."

"We tried to help people and we sold to clients on a national level - in Phoenix, Utah and California," Roman said. "Our company was showing people how to recover their money. We didn't say we were affiliated with the attorney general's office. He (Woods) is going to wind up with egg on his face."