United States. Congress. House. Committee on the J.

Consumer Fraud Prevention Act of 1995 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.R. 1499 ... April 18, 1996 online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JConsumer Fraud Prevention Act of 1995 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.R. 1499 ... April 18, 1996 → online text (page 1 of 13)
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v\ CONSUMER FRAUD PREVENTION ACT OF 1995

^ Y 4. J 89/1:104/97



Consuner Fraud Prevention ftct of 19...

HillAKlJNG

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE OX CRIME

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS

SECOND SESSION

ON

H.R. 1499

CONSUMER FRAUD PREVENTION ACT OF 1995



APRIL 18, 1996



Serial No. 97













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Printed for the

U.S.


use of the Committee


on the Judiciary
OFFICE






GOVERNMENT PRINTING




36-066


CC




WASHINGTON : 1996











For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-053900-5



v\ CONSUMER FRAUD PREVENTION ACT OF 1995

Y 4. J 89/1:104/97

Consuner Fraud Prevention Act of 19...

hLJllAKlJNG

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE OX CRIME

OF THE

COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS

SECOND SESSION

ON

H.R. 1499

CONSUMER FRAUD PREVENTION ACT OF 1995



APRIL 18, 1996



Serial No. 97















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Printed


for the
U.S.


use of the Committee


on the Judiciary

OFFICE






GOVERNMENT PRINTING <




36-066


CC






WASHINGTON : 1996









For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-053900-5



COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY



HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman



CARLOS J. MOORHEAD, California
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr.,

Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
STEVEN SCHIFF, New Mexico
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEPHEN E. BUYER, Indiana
MARTIN R. HOKE, Ohio
SONNY BONO, CaUfornia
FRED HEINEMAN, North Carolina
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
MICHAEL PATRICK FLANAGAN, IlUnois
BOB BARR, Georgia



JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
PATRICL\ SCHROEDER, Colorado
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JOHN BRYANT, Texas
JACK REED, Rhode Island
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
XAVIER BECERRA, California
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California



Alan F. Coffey, Jr., General Counsel/ Staff Director
Julian Epstein, Minority Staff Director



Subcommittee on Crime
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida, Chairman



STEVEN SCHIFF, New Mexico
STEPHEN E. BUYER, Indiana
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
FRED HEINEMAN, North Carolina
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
BOB BARR, Georgia



CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina



Paul J. McNulty, Counsel

Glenn R. Schmitt, Counsel

Daniel J. Bryant, Assistant Counsel

Nicole F. Robilotto, Assistant Counsel

Tom Diaz, Minority Counsel



(II)



CONTENTS



HEARING DATE



Page

April 18, 1996 1

TEXT OF BILL

H.R. 1499 3

OPENING STATEMENT

McCollum, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress from the State of New
York, and chairman. Subcommittee on Crime 1

WITNESSES

Barker, John F., vice president, National Consumers League, and director.

National Fraud Information Center 93

Brendel, Evalyn, vice chair. North Carolina State Legislation Committee,

American Association of Retired Person 98

Cincotta, Tony, officer, Montgomery County Police Training Academy 73

Dembin, Mitchell D., Chief, General Crime Section, U.S. Attorneys Office,

Southern District of California 48

Downs, Mary Ann, telemarketing victim, Raleigh, NC 10

Martin, James L., president, 60 Plus Association 102

Owens, Charles L., Chief, Financial Crimes Section, Federal Bureau of Inves-
tigation 36

Ritchey, Ann Marie, daughter of telemarketing victim, Reston, VA 20

Thompson, R. Bruce, II, special counsel. North Carolina Department of Jus-
tice 78

LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING

Barker, John F., vice president. National Consumers League, and director,
National Fraud Information Center: Prepared statement 94

Brendel, Evalyn, vice chair, North Carolina State Legislation Committee,
American Association of Retired Person: Prepared statement 99

Dembin, Mitchell D., Chief General Crime section, U.S. Attorneys Office,

Southern District of California: Prepared statement 52

Downs, Mary Ann, telemarketing victim, Raleigh, NC: Prepared statement .... 14

Heineman, Hon. Fred, a Representative in Congress from the State of North

Carolina: Prepared statement 9

Martin, James L., president, 60 Plus Association: Prepared statement 104

Owens, Charles L., Chief, Financial Crimes Section, Federal Bureau of Inves-
tigation:

Letter dated August 25, 1995, to Chairman McCollum, from Andrew
Fois, Assistant Attorney General, Offiice of Legislative Affairs, Depart-
ment of Justice 59

Prepared statement 38

Ritchey, Ann Marie, daughter of telemarketing victim, Reston, VA: Prepared
statement 22

Schumer, Hon. Charles E., a Representative in Congress from the State
of New York: Prepared statement 31

Thompson, R. Bruce, II, special counsel. North Carolina Department of Jus-
tice: Prepared statement 79

(III)



IV

Page



APPENDIX



Statement of Hon. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress from
the State of Texas ,._ Uj



CONSUMER FRAUD PREVENTION ACT OF 1995



THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 1996

House of Representatives,

Subcommittee on Crime,
Committee on the Judiciary,

Washington, DC.

The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:42 a.m., in room
2237, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Bill McCollum (chair-
man of the subcommittee) presiding.

Present: Representatives Bill McCollum, Howard Coble, Fred
Heineman, Steve Chabot, Charles E. Schumer, Robert C. Scott, Zoe
Lofgren, and Melvin L. Watt.

Also present: Paul J. McNulty, chief counsel; Nicole F. Robilotto,
assistant counsel; and Tom Diaz, minority counsel.

OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN McCOLLUM

Mr. McCollum. The Subcommittee on Crime is called to order.

The subject matter today is the growing problem of telemarket-
ing fraud and victimization of the elderly. Older Americans have
rapidly become the preferred targets of fraudulent telemarketers.
These victims come from an era when a person's word, like a hand
shake, could be trusted. Because of the difficulty in telling a legiti-
mate telephone pitch from an illegitimate one, they fall prey to
these conniving callers.

As a result, their losses are often staggering. The Federal Trade
Commission estimates that telemarketing fraud costs consumers
about $40 billion a year. One Ohio widow lost $240,000 to over 50
different telemarketers. She believed that she was donating to
charitable organizations. A 92-year-old California woman gave
more than $180,000 to telemarketers. She then lost over $5,000
more to another telemarketer who told her he could recover her
originally lost money in return for a large advance fee. Some sen-
iors have unwittingly given their enter life savings to telefrauds.

Fraudulent telemarketers are constantly refining their cons. If
one pitch doesn't work, they smoothly switch to another one. They
pressure and conjole until their overwhelmed victim finally surren-
ders the money. If necessary, these telephonic muggers become
abusive and threatening. When they're finished wringing money
from their victims, the telemarketers sell the victim's name to an-
other operation, and the calls begin anew.

This isn't to say that telephone calls are the only way our senior
citizens have been victimized by swindlers. Home improvement
fraud, for example, is rapidly becoming the "con de jour" all across
the country. Not only homeowners are targeted by scam artists

(1)



who convince the homeowner that repairs are necessary and even
critical. They begin with minor repairs or cleanings, and then they
find rotten roofs, collapsing decks, loose chimneys, termites. The
list is endless.

Most of the homeowners are unfamiliar with home repair prob-
lems of physically unable to inspect themselves. Like the victims
of fraudulent telemarketers, these victims are too often embar-
rassed to report.

The good news is that law enforcement is beginning to fight
back. In December, the Department of Justice, with the aid of
State and local law enforcement officials, arrested over 400 people
in 15 States on fraud charges. These arrests were the results of an
undercover operation known as Senior Sentinel. The sentinels were
elderly volunteers who allowed law enforcement agents to record
phone calls from dishonest telemarketers. The volunteers played
the role of innocent victims, and the tapes were the basis of the ar-
rests.

To strengthen the Federal attack against scam artists, my good
friend from North Carolina, Mr. Heineman, has introduced legisla-
tion which speaks to this important issue. H.R. 1499, the
Consumer Fraud Prevention Act, will establish forfeiture for any
property obtained from proceeds of a fraud offense and will also en-
sure that a payment of restitution has priority over any fine or for-
feiture penalties. The bill also directs the U.S. Sentencing Commis-
sion to increase the offense level for fraud crimes committed
against vulnerable victims or committed from a foreign country in
order to impede prosecution.

I commend the gentleman for his efforts to combat this serious
problem, and I hope that today's hearing will offer a useful and im-
portant information tool on the tricks and scams of telephone con
artists. I also expect the subcommittee will be enlightened on what
programs currently exist to protect and educate older Americans
about telemarketing fraud.

[The bill, H.R. 1499, follows:]



104th congress
1st Session



H.R. 1499

To improve the criminal law relating to fraud against consumers.



IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

April 7, 1995
Mr. Heineman (for himself, Mr. C!oble, Mr. Taylor of North Carolina, Mr.
Burr, Mr. Jones, Mrs. Myrick, Mr. Ackerman, Mr. Blute, Mr.
Bono, Mr. Bryant of Tennessee, Mr. Calvert, Mrs. COLLINS of Illi-
nois, Mr. COOLEY, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Fox of Pennsylvania, Mr.
HoKE, Mr. HOLDEN, Mr. King, Mr. LiPlNSKi, Mr. McHUGH, Mr.
Metcalf, Mr. Paxon, Mr. Sensenbrenner, Mr. Smith of Texas, and
Mr. Ballenger) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary



A BILL



To improve the criminal law relating to fraud against
consumers.

1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-

2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

3 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

4 This Act may be cited as the "Consumer Fraud Pre-

5 vention Act of 1995".



2

1 SEC. 2. FORFEITURE OF FRAUD PROCEEDS.

2 (a) Civil.— Section 981(a)(1) of title 18, United

3 States Code, is amended by adding at the end the follow-

4 ing:

5 "(G) Any property, real or personal, con-

6 stituting, derived from, or traceable to, any pro-

7 ceeds obtained directly or indirectly to a viola-

8 tion of section 2326. Notwithstanding any other

9 provision of law, any property forfeited under

10 this subparagraph, or the proceeds of such

1 1 property, shall be used, to the extent needed, as

12 determined by the Attorney General, for the na-

13 tional information hotline estabhshed under sec-

14 tion 250008 of the Violent Crime Control and

15 Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and other en-

16 forcement of section 2326.".

17 (b) Criminal.— Section 982(a) of title 18, United

18 States Code, is amended by adding at the end the follow-

19 ing:

20 "(6) The Court, in sentencing an offender

21 under section 2326, shall order that the offender

22 forfeit to the United States any real or personal

23 property constituting or derived from proceeds that

24 the offender obtained directly or indirectly as a re-

25 suit of the offense. Any property forfeited under this

26 paragraph, or the proceeds of such property, shall be

•HR 1499 IH



3

1 used, to the extent needed, as determined by the At-

2 tomey General, for the national information hotline

3 established imder section 250008 of the Violent

4 Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994

5 and other enforcement of section 2326.".

6 SEC. 3. PRIORITY FOR MANDATORY RESTITUTION.

7 Section 2327(a) of title 18, United States Code, is

8 amended by adding at the end "The payment of an

9 amount due pursuant to such restitution shall have prior-

10 ity over the pajnoaent of any fine or the forfeiture of any

11 property under section 982(a)(6) from which such pay-

12 ment could be made or derived."

13 SEC. 4. SENTENCING IN CASES WITH VULNERABLE VIC-

14 TIMS.

15 The United States Sentencing Commission shall

16 amend the sentencing guidelines to increase by 2 levels

17 the vulnerable victim adjustment.

18 SEC. S. INCREASED PUNISHMENT FOR USE OF FOREIGN

19 LOCATION TO EVADE PROSECUTION.

20 The United States Sentencing ConMnission shall

21 amend the sentencing guidelines to increase the offense

22 level for jmy fraud offense by 2 levels if defendant con-

23 ducted activities to further the fraud from a foreign coun-

24 try in order to impede prosecution for the offense.



•HB 14M IH



4

1 SEC. 6. INFORMATION ABOUT VICTIMS OF CERTAIN

2 CRIMES.

3 Any presentence report required under the Federal

4 Rules of Criminal Procedure shall include information

5 about the age of each victim of each fraud offense for

6 which a defendant is convicted.

O



•HR 1499 m



Mr. Schumer is not present at the present time. So I will call on
Mr. Scott, if he has any opening statements. Would you like to
make one?

Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't have an opening
statement, but I would want to congratulate the gentleman from
North Carolina for introducing the bill. This is a — I don't know how
difficult this thing is because I have a practice of responding to
people who call me and I don't recognize their voice, so they say,
"Hello, Robert." No one that I know ever calls me "Robert," so I
know it's a sales pitch and respond by just saying, "No, thank you."

They say, "Hello, Robert."

I respond, "No, thank you."

Then they, curiously, say something or rather, and then I say,
"No, I don't want a free prize. No, I don't want free anything. No,
thank you."

And then they go on to someone more lucrative.

I imagine that there are many who respond a little more politely
to such calls than I do and get hooked for very small amounts gen-
erally. And because they're small amounts involved, no one person
can afford the prosecution. And, unfortunately, when you allow
small amount to get ripped off, it doesn't take very long for some
to get ripped off for huge amounts of money, when you allow the
operation to be in effect.

We need to educate senior citizens that perhaps they don't need
the free prizes. We need to increase money for prosecution because
sometimes these are very complicated. How you catch people, how
you get the information is extremely difficult.

So I want to, again, congratulate the gentleman from North
Carolina for introducing the bill and assure the senior citizens that
we will try to do everj^hing we can to avoid people from profiteer-
ing, of ripping off vulnerable populations.

Mr. McCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Scott.

Mr. Coble, do you have any opening remarks?

Mr. Coble. Mr. Chairman, I'll be very brief. The gentleman from
Virginia and you have pretty well touched on what I had in mind.
I am pleased to have been, or to be, an original cosponsor of this
proposed legislation introduced by Congressman Heineman. It's a
good piece of legislation.

I think probably the convenient victims of this sort of activity ad-
dressed by this bill are for the most part senior citizens. Older
Americans, it has been said, Mr. Chairman, wait for the telephone
to ring because many times they're lonely. Well, I'm rapidly becom-
ing an older American, but I don't wait for the telephone to ring.
I'm not in that lot yet. In fact, I hope the telephone won't ring. But
many folks are waiting for that phone to ring; they grab it imme-
diately, and many older Americans, senior citizens, are vulnerable
to this sort of thing.

And, again, I say to my friend from Carolina, my neighbor, I'm
glad you saw fit to get this bill ready for our discussion today. And
I appreciate, Mr. Chairman, your having called this hearing. Thank
you.

Mr. McCOLLUM. Well, thank you, Mr. Coble.

And speaking of your neighbor, Mr. Heineman, would you like to
make opening remarks on your piece of legislation?



8

Mr. Heineman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

"You'll never ever be anything. You're going to your grave a
loser, a big loser!" A telemarketer predator yelled this abuse al a
78-year-old woman after she broke down crying and refused to give
the telemarketer her American Express card account number.

Today I look forward to hearing testimony from seniors and their
families who have been defrauded, as well as the law enforcement
agencies apprehending and prosecuting fraud against seniors.

I'd like to extend my warmest greetings and appreciation to Ra-
leigh resident and my constituent, Mary Ann Downs, who is show-
ing tremendous bravery and fortitude testifying here today.

I also would like to welcome Evalyn Brendel, who is testifying for
the AARP, and who is from Raleigh, as well as Bruce Thompson,
special assistant to the North Carolina attorney general, who has
been instrumental in prosecuting telemarketing fraud in North
Carolina.

As a senior citizen myself, I was proud and privileged to intro-
duce H.R. 1499, the Consumer Fraud Prevention Act of 1995,
which is designed to protect the vulnerable in our society, espe-
cially senior citizens, from telemarketing fraud. As stated by Chair-
man McCoUum, the FBI estimates that U.S. consumers lose over
$40 billion a year to fraudulent telemarketers. This legislation is
desperately needed and is nonpartisan. That's why H.R. 1499 has
73 bipartisan cosponsors.

Recently, the North Carolina attorney general filed yet another
telemarketing fraud suit against individuals who prey on senior
citizens. The victim, a 71-year-old woman; the cost, her life savings
of $57,000. An elderly man in Raleigh recently lost $37,000. In
Durham, an elderly lady lost $212,000 in a scam directed at sen-
iors. Ms. Downs will describe how she lost over $74,000.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. Telemarketing
scams are defrauding senior citizens and those who are especially
vulnerable, like the mentally retarded, all across the United States.
Another appalling story is that a 79-year-old blind woman from
Minnesota who lost her life savings in a sweepstakes scam, she re-
sponded to a solicitation which invited her to enter a contest for
large cash prizes. Along with a small entry fee, she was required
to answer a simple question. To advance in the contest, she had to
answer more questions and pay additional fees. In all, she lost
$25,000.

These fraudulent activities are not performed by legitimate com-
panies, but by those who prey on the vulnerability of certain
groups. That is why I'm introducing this legislation.

The legislation, the Consumer Fraud Prevention Act, directs the
U.S. Sentencing Commission to increase penalties for those who
purposefully defraud the vulnerable in our society and those who
utilize international borders to evade prosecution. The legislation
also requires mandatory victim restitution first, then asset forfeit-
ure. This will ensure that the fruits of crime will not be used to
perpetrate another crime. Once the victim has repaid, the property
seized from the defendant will be used to fund law enforcement ac-
tivities to combat fraud. The Consumer Fraud Prevention Act will
assist in the apprehension and prosecution of telemarketing preda-
tors and help protect the vulnerable in our society against fraud.



I look forward to the hearing. I look forward to the stories of
these victims and how Congress can help better protect our seniors.

And, again, I'd like to welcome here today Ms. Downs, who, prior
to my coming to Congress, was one of my constituents when I was
chief of police in Raleigh.

Ms. Downs, welcome.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Heineman follows:]

Prepared Statement of Hon. Fred Heineman, a Representative in Congress
From the State of North Carolina

"You'll never, ever be anything. You're going to your grave a loser. A big loser!"

A telemarketing predators yelled this abuse at a 78 year old woman after she
broke down crjdng and refused to give the telemarketer her American Express card
account number.

Today, I look forward to hearing testimony from seniors and their families who
have been defrauded as well as the law enforcement agencies apprehending and
prosecuting fraud against seniors.

I would like to extend my warmest greetings and appreciation to Raleigh resident
and my constituent Mary Ann Downs, who is showing tremendous bravery and for-
titude testifjdng here today. I also would like to welcome Evalyn Brendel who is tes-
tifying for the AARP and who is from Raleigh as well as Bruce Thompson, Special
Assistant to North Carolina Attorney General, who has been instrumental in pros-
ecuting telemarketing fraud in North Carolina

As a senior citizen myself, I was proud to introduce H.R. 1499, the Consumer
Fraud Prevention Act of 1995, which is designed to protect the vulnerable in our
society, especially senior citizens, from telemarketing fraud. The FBI estimates that
U.S. consumers lose over $40 billion a year to fraudulent telemarketers. This legis-
lation is desperately needed and is nonpartisan. That is why H.R. 1499 has 73 bi-
partisan co-sponsors.

Recently, the North Carolina Attorney General filed yet another telemarketing
fraud suit against individuals who prey on senior citizens. The victim — a 71 year
old woman. The cost — her life savings of $57,000. An elderly man in Raleigh re-
cently lost $37,000. In Durham, an elderly lady lost $212,000 in a scam directed at
seniors. Mrs. Downs will describe how she lost over $74,000.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. Telemarketing scams are defraud-
ing senior citizens and those who are especially vulnerable, like the mentally re-
tarded, all across the U.S. Another appalling story is that of the 79 year old blind
woman from Minnesota who lost her life savings in a sweepstake scam. She re-
sponded to a solicitation which invited her to enter a contest for large cash prizes.
Along with a small entry fee she was required to answer a simple question. To ad-
vance in the contest she had to answer more questions and pay additional fees. In
all, she lost $25,000.

These fraudulent activities are not performed by legitimate companies, but by
those who prey on the vulnerability of certain groups. That is why I am introducing
this legislation.

My legislation, H.R. 1499, the Consumer Fraud Prevention Act directs the U.S.
Sentencing Commission to increase penalties for those who purposefully defraud the
wilnerable in our society and those who utilize international borders to evade pros-
ecution. The legislation also requires mandatory victim restitution first, then asset
forfeiture. This will ensure that the fruits of crime will not be used to perpetuate
further crime. Once the victim is repaid, the property seized from the defendant will
be used to fund law enforcement activities to combat fraud.

The Consumer Fraud Prevention Act of 1995 will assist in the apprehension and
prosecution of telemarketing predators and help protect the vulnerable in our soci-
ety against fraud. I look forward to hearing the stories of these victims and how
Congress can better protect our seniors.

Mr. McCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Heineman.
Ms. Lofgren, do you have any opening remarks?
Ms. LOFGREN. No, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. McCOLLUM. Mr. Bryant, would you have any opening re-
marks you'd like to make?



10

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Simply to say that I would like to as-
sociate myself with all the comments that have been advanced so
far and would look forward to this hearing.

Mr. McCOLLUM. Thank you very much.

At this time I'd like to extend a warm welcome to our first panel
this morning: Ms. Mary Ann Downs and Ms. Ann Ritchey. Ms.
Downs is a telemarketing victim from Raleigh, NC.

And if we could have Ms. Downs and Ms. Ritchey come forward
at this time and take your seats at the table, please do so, and I'll


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JConsumer Fraud Prevention Act of 1995 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.R. 1499 ... April 18, 1996 → online text (page 1 of 13)