Auto-warranty scam suit filed by Aspen couple gets pushback from defense

Pleadings by a national auto-warranty company being sued by a local couple for allegedly running an illegal robocall scam contend the lawsuit is filled with overblown allegations and unsubstantiated claims that fail to meet legal muster.

Attorney Andrew L. Quiat, who has an Aspen law office, and wife, Jane Keener-Quiat, a pastor in the Roaring Fork Valley, have a lawsuit pending in Denver federal court against multiple out-of-state defendants accused of conspiring to defraud the couple out of thousands of dollars through a telemarketing scheme that lasted from the September 2020 through May 2021.

The couple is seeking more than $8 million from the defendants in connection to 27 robocalls to their home — an amount calculated by tripling the maximum fines and penalties set by the Colorado Organized Crimes Act.

The suit claims the defendants committed numerous violations of the the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) and Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. The suit also claims they also engaged in conspiracy to defraud and civil theft.

The defendants are Arizona-based vehicle-warranty company CarGuard Administration and two Nevada-based telemarketing companies that sell its policies and do business as Auto Renewal Center and Vehicle Services and/or Vehicle Service Center. The complaint also names as a defendant Daniel Laurent, the president of the two telemarketing companies.

CarGuard is contesting the suit on numerous fronts. Written arguments by the company’s lawyers contended the calls were made with the plaintiffs’ consent and the lawsuit is a “classic example of ‘shotgun pleading’ that has been decried by this Court and federal courts across the country as ‘intolerable’ and an ‘obstruction of justice.’”

“The Complaint falls well short of alleging well-pleaded factual allegations — as opposed to ‘facts’ disguised as mere conclusions and assumptions — to state a plausible (Colorado Organized Crimes Act) claim against CarGuard,” said a motion CarGaurd attorneys filed for partial judgment on the suit’s claims associated with the Colorado Organized Crimes Act, which is modeled after Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

The motion has been pending before the court since its Dec. 3 filing. Tuesday was the deadline for the Quiats to file a response to the motion, yet they sought a continuance until March 15. The plaintiffs also offered in pleadings they will likely amend the complaint mid-March.

“Plaintiffs have been diligently working on their Response to CarGuard’s Motion but require additional time to complete review of the approximately 11,000 documents produced by CarGuard on February 7, 2022 and complete the preparation of their Amended Complaint,” according to written arguments filed Friday.

The suit alleged CarGuard and the two telemarketing companies conspired to use illegal sales tactics through unsolicited and unapproved robocalls. Both Quiats have been on the national do-not-call registry since the mid-2010s, yet still received calls through a “spoofing technology” used by the defendants. That technology, according to the complaint, would produce local phone numbers on the Quiat couple’s caller in an attempt to lure them into taking the call.

The calls would start with a recorded voice intended to sound like a live person, and if the recipient showed interest in buying an extended car warranty, an actual live person would come on the phone, the suit said.

“The purpose of the enterprise was to promote and derive revenues, cash flow, or profits from illegally making autodialed and prerecorded calls to vulnerable persons perceived to need ‘protection’ and ‘peace of mind’ with respect to future automobile repairs,“ said the suit.

In an attempt to get more information about the alleged scheme, the couple recorded and documented every robocall they received, including phone discussions with actual people involved in the alleged scam, the suit said.

Keener-Quiat used a credit card to pay $3,750 for the coverage, “for the sole purpose of identifying the source of the anonymous and unlawful call(s)” and “in order to obtain a policy that could be canceled in order to determine from both the policy and the funds flow via the credit card, the identity and source of the party(ies) making the illegal calls,” the suit said, noting Keener-Quiat’s request for a refund on the warranty coverage was denied.

CarGuard has countered that Keener-Quiat received a “prerecorded and autodialed telemarketing call” on Sept. 4, 2020, and “voluntarily purchased” the warranty extension. As well, CarGuard’s attorneys argued there’s no evidence showing CarGuard and the telemarketers committed fraud.

“Plaintiffs contend that the mode of contact made by the Direct Marketing Defendants was wrongful. Simply making autodialed and spoofed telephone calls (although impermissible under the TCPA and CCPA) does not create a scheme to defraud nor is per se evidence that consumers were actually defrauded,” CarGuard attorneys said in written written arguments.

CarGuard also has a motion to split or bifurcate the suit into two trials. The Quiats are contesting that and the matter is pending, according to court records.