The FTC bans a sweepstakes operator

You did not win the sweepstakes. In fact, you probably never even entered one before getting a letter telling you how much it would cost to collect on your "winning" ticket.

An outfit that allegedly targeted senior citizens around the world, charging them a $20-$30 fee to allow them to qualify to get paid a fictitious prize that usually topped $2 million, was banned from the prize-promotion business, the Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday. The outfit took an estimated $11 million from victims, the FTC said.

The California-based business was charged with sending deceptive prize-promotion letters in violation of federal law, the FTC said. Consumers were targeted throughout the U.S. and "dozens of other countries." Among them: Canada, Japan, France and the U.K.

After bringing charges last year, the FTC won a court order that froze the operation's assets. Now, those that ran the scheme have been banned from the business, and the leader of the operation is being forced to sell his home and turn over the proceeds to repay some of what was taken.

As is typical in these cases, the alleged perpetrator does not have the financial ability to repay the full amount of the restitution.

Defendants in the case are Liam O. Moran of Ventura, Calif., and several companies he operated. They include Applied Marketing Sciences; Standard Registration (doing business as Consolidated Research Authority and CRA); and Worldwide Information Systems (doing business as Specific Monitoring Service, SMS, Specific Reporting Service, SRS, Universal Information Services, UIS, Compendium Sampler Services, and CSS).

Agencies involved in the investigation included those in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia.

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    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.