Fake disabilities lead to real sympathy sales

Monday, December 3rd 2007, 3:26 pm
By: News 9

Gary Simmons never thought he'd be asked to modify his disability for a job. Simmons does have a physical disability that comes with its own share of problems and obstacles. But the disability United Handicap Assembled Products asked him to fake was one of an entirely different nature-Down Syndrome.

"Me and my cousin were there and we were just shocked," said Gary Simmons.

Simmons originally applied for a job with United Handicap Assembled Products after seeing an ad in the newspaper for a telemarketer position. The company sells general office products, trash bags, pens and survival kits. Simmons had no problems with the position until they asked him to alter his voice. They told him using this altered voice would gain him more ‘sympathy sales,' said Simmons.

"They have like nine people in there and all of them were instructed to yell at the top of their lungs and sound in that Down Syndrome voice" said Gary Simmons.

People with no disability at all were also faking the voice, said Simmons. And to seal the deal a job coach would get on the line and thank the customer for making the day of someone like Simmons.

Simmons quit after his first day.

United Handicap Assembled Products claims to be a company employing handicap and disabled people, including disabled veterans, to assemble these office products. NEWS 9's investigation does not lend credibility to the telemarketing organization's structure or mission. And the owner of the company is also under suspicion from the law.

NEWS 9 got word about the fraudulent operation and sent in an undercover NEWS producer, fitted with a hidden camera, to investigate. The producer filled out an application, but the employee taking the producer's information tried to talk him out of the position.

"I'll be honest, they pretend to be more handicapped on the phone," admitted the employee. "A lot of them see that they can get more sales. It's just telemarketing...the more money you get...A lot of people act kind of retarded back there trying to get more sales."

A week later, NEWS 9's Consumer Watch went over to the company's headquarters in Oklahoma City, to speak with the owner Rocky Loving. Once there, NEWS 9's Amanda Taylor found there was not only no owner, but no telemarketing company either. The operation had picked up and moved out.

The consumer team did find a piece of paper left behind in the company's frantic move and the information was telling. The company had sold more than $46,000 of merchandise in just one week.

After tracking down the questionable company outside of Dallas in Carrollton, Texas, Taylor went to confront the owner of the company. The owner, however, refused to talk.

NEWS 9 did find some interesting information on Loving. Loving pled guilty to possession of methamphetamine in February of this year and is out on probation. The Oklahoma Department of Labor is investigating Loving regarding a worker's compensation case as well as owing an employee money. Rocky did deny any wrongdoing or knowledge of any deceit.

Steve Stokes, director of Oklahoma's Office of Disability Concerns, is disturbed over the alleged deceit and said consumers should beware if anyone tries to flaunt a disability just to make a sale.

"That should send up a red flag," said Steve Stokes. "[But] to act on someone's sympathy for money is reprehensible."

If there's something Amanda Taylor and the Consumer Watch team can help you with call 841-9921.

Originally Aired: 11-08-07