PrimeTel Communications is a telecommunications company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, nominally a service provider for toll-free telephone numbers. Founded in 1995, it is known for amassing large amounts of 800 numbers to redirect misdialed phone calls to erotic chat lines operated by National A-1, an affiliated company. PrimeTel acquires numbers that were previously registered and advertised, resulting in embarrassment when they advertise erotic chat lines. The company controls 1.7 million 800 numbers, as well as millions of numbers on other prefixes.
The company was founded by Richard Cohen and Sandra Kessler. Cohen serves as PrimeTel's CEO.
Toll-free number hoardingEdit
In 2010, National A-1's six RespOrgs operated 1.9 million toll free +1-800 numbers out of the 7.8 million possible numbers and were also occupying millions of numbers in other toll-free area codes. The numbers are worth an estimated $1 billion. While the six organizations have distinct names, they are simply called PrimeTel in the industry. National A-1 was previously known as National Telephone Enterprises.
In theory, the hoarding of millions of toll-free telephone numbers is prohibited by CFR 2010 Title 47 section § 52.105 Warehousing and § 52.107 Hoarding. The latter section states, in part:
- Toll free subscribers shall not hoard toll free numbers.
- No person or entity shall acquire a toll free number for the purpose of selling the toll free number to another entity or to a person for a fee.
- Routing multiple toll free numbers to a single toll free subscriber will create a rebuttable presumption that the toll free subscriber is hoarding or brokering toll free numbers.
Only a handful of individual complaints have received a response from the FCC. Robert and Lucyanna Westfall's 1998 complaint to the FCC was dismissed after an out of court settlement turned over the one disputed number to the complainants.
In a September 2011 FCC complaint, attorneys for Robert Liff, a prospective subscriber for a number in disconnect, objected that their client was unable to obtain the number +1-888-PROGRESS as it was directly ported from Verizon to Yorkshire, one of multiple RespOrgs under PrimeTel, without ever having been placed in the spare pool. The complaint alleged that PrimeTel's dummy company had falsely claimed to have a subscriber which had inadvertently used the number in advertising, marketing, and/or promotional materials as a pretext to obtain a letter of authorisation from the previous subscriber, which was Progress Inc. of Pipestone, Minnesota. Progress (a non-profit providing employment and training to the developmentally delayed). With this letter of authorisation, the number was not released on a first-come, first-served basis as legally required, but transferred directly to Yorkshire. As of 2013, +1-888-PROGRESS remains under the control of Yorkshire.
Internet domains and 2010 raidEdit
National A-1 was raided in 2010 related to a prostitution ring, related to its operation of escorts.com and hotmovies.com. In 2011, the company pled guilty to money laundering, forfeiting $4.9 million in proceeds from escorts.com and paying an additional $1.5 million fine. Hotmovies.com grossed $20 million in 2006.
The company also owns or operates free.com, babies.com, sextoys.com, GayMovies.com, MovieDollars.com, Clips.com, catnip.com, poker.org, camps.com, antiques.com, fun.com, contests.com, golflessons.com, boys.com, girls.com, teens.com. and divorce.com. Richard Cohen and his staff have used pseudonyms "Rick London," "James Cybert," "R.S. Duffy" and "Jennifer Luna" as contact information and to register Internet-domain names.
- "Porn company buys up a quarter of 1-800 numbers". CBS News. April 19, 2011. Retrieved November 11, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Medina, Regina (October 29, 2010). "Porn wasn't the only industry affected by Center City raid". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved November 11, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- CFR 2010 Title 47 § 52.107 Hoarding
- "Westfalls vs. Primetel". Federal Communications Commission. 1998. Retrieved 2013-11-07. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Progress, Inc. | Pipestone, MN 56164 | Habilitative Work Provider". Retrieved 2013-11-07. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Robert Liff vs. Primetel, Yorkshire et al". Federal Communications Commission. 2011. Retrieved 2013-11-07. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Ruderman, Wendy; Laker, Barbara (November 2, 2011). "Porn king's empire pays feds $6.4M penalty". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved November 11, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Feds raid Philly cyber-porn business". WPVI-TV. Retrieved November 11, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Silver, Elliot (February 18, 2009). "5 With… Rick London, National A-1 Advertising". Retrieved November 11, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Ruderman, Wendy; Laker, Barbara (June 16, 2011). "Society Hill is home to reclusive Web-porn king". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved November 11, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)