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Lawsuit: COVID-19 stimulus relief mailers sent people to car dealership

The mailer allegedly included a fake check titled 'Stimulus Relief Program.'

The Federal Trade Commission says it is suing a marketer who used the guise of COVID-19 stimulus incentives to get people to show up at a car sale in Florida.

The complaint was filed against Traffic Jam Events, LLC and its owner, David J. Jeansonne II.

The FTC alleges mailers sent to consumers were labeled “URGENT: COVID-19 ECONOMIC AUTOMOTIVE STIMULUS PROGRAM RELIEF FUNDS AVAILABLE" and included an watermark of the Great Seal of the United States. It directed people to a "special COVID-19 Economic Automotive Stimulus Program with relief funds and other incentives" at an address in Bushnell, Florida. That's about 85 miles northeast of Tampa.

Credit: Federal Trade Commission
A mailer the Federal Trade Commission claims used the guise of COVID-19 stimulus incentives to direct people to a car sale in Florida.

"The mailers led consumers to believe they could obtain stimulus relief temporarily in person, making multiple references both to the coronavirus pandemic and to a supposed economic stimulus program similar to the program enacted under the (CARES Act)," the FTC said in a statement.

The complaint alleges that the notice repeatedly described the address as "relief headquarters," "your designated temporary 10-day site," and "designated local headquarters."

The mailer included a mock "Stimulus Relief Program" check with the memo "COVID-19 AUTO STIMULUS."

Credit: Federal Trade Commission
Above: A copy of the notice sent to consumers. Below: A copy of the fake stimulus-related check sent in the mailer.

The FTC said Jeansonne and Traffic Jam Events are not providing "important COVID-19 stimulus information or stimulus relief, including stimulus checks" and that they are not approved or permitted to use the Great Seal.

The FTC is asking a judge to force the defendants to stop and to require them to provide compensation to consumers.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody called out the marketing firm back in April, WTSP reported. The dealership was cooperating with the investigation and entered into an "assurance of voluntary compliance," agreeing to pay $10,000 toward consumer restitution and a $1,000 civil penalty, the Attorney General’s Office said in April.

The FTC claims Jeansonne and Traffic Jam Events have been the subject of previous law enforcement actions in Kansas and Indiana. 

TEGNA has reached out to Traffic Jam Events for comment.

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