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Telemarketing co. raided over disabled claims

May 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Police raid a telemarketing company and shut it down, saying its employees faked disabilities to make money. A former employee says she saw it happen.

The telemarketing company, which promotes products assembled by the handicapped, is out of business for the time being. Police say its employees pretended to sound disabled in order to make more money.

The company is out of business after Tuesday's raid by Riverside Police. Police believe close to 90 percent of the telemarketers working for the company would make calls pretending to be disabled in order to play on the emotions of customers and, then cash in.

United Handicap Assembled Products is a telemarketing company in Riverside that sells things like first-aid kits, calendars and survival kits. Its slogan: "Helping others help themselves" -- because according to its website, "Everyone who works at the company is disabled."

But police say that's a lie, because about 80 percent of employees don't have any disability at all. And a number of employees are accused of pretending to sound disabled while making sales calls on the phone.

Nikki Franks did not want to appear on camera, but says she worked at the company and saw what happened.

"It made me very sick to my stomach, and as soon as they hung up the phone, they acted normal," said Franks.

Franks says she was actually pressured to impersonate people with disabilities too.

"Unfortunately I did find out that once you did talk that way, you would get sales, and people would be more patient with you. I felt so bad because you're basically making fun of these people who are back there doing hard work," said Franks.

Detectives accuse a number of employees of theft by false pretenses and false advertising.

"The telemarketers were acting pretty significantly disabled and using particular voice patterns and such that would make them sound disabled," said Riverside Police Det. Brian Money.

Money says what's also sad is the fact that several disabled people are now without a job. Some of them were at the location Wednesday to collect their things.

"Those few employees that were there may not be able to get a job at other locations as easy, and that part, it is sad," said Money.

As for Nikki Franks, she says she quit after only her second day on the job.

"I'd much rather be unemployed than work there," said Franks.

Detectives say the company did about $1.5 million in sales every year. An interview request sent to the company's founder was not answered.

If you have done business with the company and feel you've been defrauded, contact the Riverside Police Dept. at (951) 353-7118.


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