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Call Kurtis Investigates: Who's Behind Illegal Robocalls?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- They're annoying and illegal, but who's behind the Northern California plague of recorded phone messages?

A Call Kurtis investigation has learned robocalls have been illegal for years, but some companies haven't gotten the message.

"Something's really shady here, and we just want to get to the bottom of it," consumer reporter Kurtis Ming told a company owner Call Kurtis caught using robocalls to ramp up business.

The Robocall Problem

It seems no one likes getting the calls.

"Hello, are your carpets dirty?" the recording begins, offering prices "as low as $9.95 room."

But these viewers don't want the calls.

"Obnoxious," said Darlene Spurgeon -- who doesn't even have carpet.

"Why are they picking on you?" Ming asked.

"I don't know," she said with an irritated smile.

"I want to say, 'Damn, it's that a--hole again,'" said Barbara Regello of Citrus Heights.

"I said, 'Get my name off the effing list,'" said Regello, a retired school employee.

Regello said "Ray" the robocaller has been bugging her for three years with the same carpet cleaning message: "This is Ray, with the Carpet, Tile and Furniture Cleaning Experts."

"Ray," she said. "Ray, the jerk."

Mom Michelle Wade of Roseville said she's getting the same calls even though she's on the Do Not Call List.

"Either I'm sitting at dinner with my family, or I'm trying to get my kids into bed," she said.

But just whose behind some of these annoying and illegal calls?

Robocalls are illegal under federal law, and have been for four years.

While Call Kurtis was investigating complaints about Ray the robocaller, one of our Call Kurtis volunteers got a carpet cleaning robocall at home. But this time no mention of Ray.

Call Kurtis hired them to see just who they were.

Wired Up

Call Kurtis wired a house with hidden cameras, and the company showed up the next morning right on time, in an unmarked SUV.

"Are you Ray?" a Call Kurtis producer asked.

"Hans," the cleaner responded.

Hans admitted he had heard of Ray's Carpet Cleaning and their robocalls, but insists his company is QA Carpet Care.

"I don't have a guy named Ray working for me," he said.

As Hans steam cleaned the carpets upstairs, our undercover team watches another woman outside working the phone from the SUV. She eventually comes inside.

"My name's Robin," she told an undercover producer.

Robin said she's Hans' wife, and she told our producer their form of advertising is quite successful.

"We get at least a 100 calls a day," she said.

Robin claimed QA Carpet Care travels all around Northern California cleaning carpets -- from San Jose to Napa to Reno.

As Hans keeps working, she returns to her car, and that's when our team appears, asking for answers.

"Hi, I'm Kurtis Ming, from channel 13, how are you?" Ming said.

"I'm fine," Robin replied.

"We wanted to talk with you about robocalls?" said Ming.

"We don't," Robin began, before pausing. "Don't ask me."

"The reason why you're here right now is because we called and responded to a robocall," Mind said.

"You know what?" Robin said, "That is not our company."

She won't tell us the name of her company at first, but then tells us it's Quality Assured Carpet Care.

"Something's really shady here, and we just want to get to the bottom of it," Ming said.

Despite what Robin said about not robocalling people, Hans is much more forthcoming.

"You admit you advertise through robocalls?" Ming asked.

"Yeah," Hans replied.

He told Mind it's easy to do -- just buy some equipment.

"You're breaking federal law," Ming said.

"It's a way of advertising, that's all I can say," he said.


The Federal Trade Commission enforces the robocall law.

"It's tough to build these cases," said Ken Abbe of the FTC.

Since the 2009 ban on robocalls, the FTC has gone after more than 130 companies and individuals, issuing fines and forcing them to stop robocalling.

But the FTC admits it can't go after everyone.

"There's no easy way to trace that call back to the person making it," Abbe said.

Although we did in this case, just by hiring Hans.

But remember Ray?

Just who was this guy, harassing our viewers?

"It's just annoying," Regello said.

We tracked down a phone number for the company, and set up two different appointments, ready for them with our hidden cameras.

But the company canceled on us both times, and stopped returning our calls.

"I'm aware of my complaints, and I take care of them," Hans told Ming back at our undercover house.

Hans claimed he stops robocalling anyone who complains about his company.

"You know robocalls are illegal?" Ming said.

"To a point," Hans replied.

"What do you mean to a point?" Ming said.

"Again, it's a way of advertising," the company owner said.

After finishing our carpets he packs up, even saying we don't have to pay him.

"No, we'll pay," Ming said. "We'll pay you for your time."

Call Kurtis does, but before we send him on his way, one last question:

"Are you going to keep doing it?" Ming asked.

"Possibly, who knows?" he said. "It's a way that makes money."

After catching Hans, he told us they'd just focus their business on a different area.

Since our sting in August, we've checked several times for a business license in Auburn or Placer County where they told us they were based. We couldn't find one.

We still have not been able to figure out who is behind the Ray's robocalls, which is why we started investigating.

We should point out, however, we haven't received any complaints about those exact calls since the summer when we started investigating.

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