Alleged robocall scammer tells US Senate he's no 'kingpin'

A Florida man fined $120 million by the FCC for allegedly making nearly 100 million illegal robocalls appears before a Senate hearing and denies wrongdoing.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
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A Florida man is at the heart of what the FCC calls "one of the largest -- and most dangerous -- illegal robocalling campaigns" it's ever investigated.

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An alleged serial robocaller who was fined $120 million by the FCC denied wrongdoing in testimony before a US Senate committee on Wednesday.

The Federal Communications Commission fined Adrian Abramovich in June last year for allegedly making more than 96 million robocalls during a three-month period in 2016.

The FCC accused the Florida man of tricking consumers with "exclusive" vacation deals from well-known travel and hospitality companies, like Hilton and Marriott. The agency has said he led "one of the largest -- and most dangerous -- illegal robocalling campaigns that the commission has ever investigated."

But Abramovich denied these claims.

"I am not the kingpin of robocalling that is alleged," he said under subpoena Wednesday before the Senate Commerce Committee, according to a Reuters report.

Abramovich denied any "fraudulent activities" and said he was engaging in legitimate telemarketing practices by offering real vacation deals. He declined to answer some questions about his case, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

But Sen. John Thune, who chairs the committee, told Abramovich he'd waived his right to avoid answering questions when he discussed his case at the hearing, according to Reuters. Thune warned him he could be held in contempt of Congress if he didn't answer questions.

Consumers get nearly 2.5 billion robocalls a month. The FCC has said it gets more than 200,000 complaints each year about unwanted calls. And the Federal Trade Commission said it received roughly 5.3 million complaints about telemarketing calls in 2016.

"Americans are mad as hell" that they still get these calls even after efforts by Congress and the FCC to stop them, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last year.

In November, the FCC approved new rules to protect consumers against unwanted robocalls. The commission has also been working on other ways to limit what it calls the "scourge" of unwanted calls. But some lawmakers want the FCC to go further.