Group brings class action regarding inmate phone fees

By Carol Ostrow | Apr 29, 2015


A group of 13 individuals has sued a telecommunications firm, alleging unjust enrichment dating to 2000.

Earl Reese, Walter Chruby, Stephen Orosz Jr., Michael Veon, Larry Bageant, Luann Bouvier, Wesley Harper, Robert Holmes, Stephen and Emily Orosz, Carl Peterkin, Stephanie Veon, and Lewis Brooks collectively filed a class action lawsuit April 23 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Global Tel*Link Corporation (GTL), alleging unfair trade practices from January 2000 to the present.

All plaintiffs either are incarcerated or are family members of detainees in the prison system. Invoking the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, the plaintiffs allege unjust, unreasonable, unfair and deceptive conduct beginning Jan. 1, 2000.

According to the complaint, Global Tel*Link charges rates and fees up to 100 times the normal market rates for intrastate telephone usage to and from correctional facilities throughout the United States, including Pennsylvania.

Altogether, GTL and at least four subsidiaries in four different states serve more than 2,000 correctional facilities and 1.1 million inmates in 48 states via contracts, with no competitive market forces to influence its pricing habits, the suit says, and GTL pays kickbacks to the contracting prisons.

Additionally, GTL imposes exorbitant fees and charges on accounts used for inmate telephone calls, the suit says. The filing cites a previous FCC study of the defendant’s practices concluding that commission “payments” to participating prisons are profit-sharing kickback arrangements.

The plaintiffs seek: certification of class action; declaratory judgment; compensatory damages and restitution; pre- and post- judgment interest; attorney fees; and court costs. The group is represented by attorneys from Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check in Radnor, Pennsylvania; Law Offices of Susan L. Burke in Baltimore; Berger & Montague in Philadelphia; and Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case number: 2:15-cv-02197-MAM.

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