The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Ocala Division, issued an order permanently banning defendant Frank Romero from offering for sale or selling any protective goods or services, after granting the FTC’s motion for summary judgment.

The order also includes two monetary judgments against Romero, who has done business under the names Trend Deploy and Uvenux. The first judgment is for $989,483.69, to be returned to consumers harmed by Romero’s violations of the FTC Act and the Commission’s Mail Order Rule. The court also entered a second civil penalty judgment of $2,562.21 for Romero’s violations of the FTC Act with regards to the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.

In a complaint filed in June 2021, the FTC alleged that Romero preyed upon consumers’ fear of COVID-19 by advertising the availability and quick delivery of PPE, including N95 facemasks, even though he had no basis to make those promises.

The complaint stated that Romero failed to deliver PPE on time (if at all), failed to notify consumers of delayed shipments, failed to offer the cancellations and refunds required by the Commission’s Mail Order Rule, and failed to honor refund requests. When Romero eventually did deliver the products, he often sent supplies that were inferior in quality to what consumers ordered. Based on this conduct, the complaint alleged that Romero’s deceptive and unfair conduct violated the Mail Order Rule, the FTC Act, and the FTC Act with regards to the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.

The court found Romero violated the Mail Order Rule, the FTC Act, and the FTC Act with regards to the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act. In issuing the order for permanent injunction, the court wrote that Romero “ha[d] no reasonable basis to expect he would be able to ship ordered merchandise to the buyer within the times he … stated within his solicitations,” “fail[ed] to ship goods within the timeframe required by [the Mail Order Rule],” “fail[ed] to allow consumers to consent to a delay in shipping or to cancel their orders and receive a prompt refund,” and “fail[ed] to provide consumers with a prompt refund” upon their request.

The court also found Romero violated the FTC Act because he lacked a reasonable basis for his claims about: 1) when his facemasks would ship, 2) whether his facemasks were certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or the Food and Drug Administration, and 3) the filtration efficiencies possessed by his facemasks. Notably, the court found Romero lacked a reasonable basis to claim the masks he sold were proper N95 facemasks.

The final judgment and order for permanent injunction was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Ocala Division, on May 15, 2023. The staff members on this case are Christopher Erickson and Michael Mora in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Official news published at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/06/florida-district-court-permanently-bars-covid-19-ppe-marketer-from-selling-goods-services