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Phone Rage at Auto Warranty Scam Lands Ohio Man in Jail

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By Caleb Groos on July 22, 2009 12:50 PM

Companies using shady marketing practices to sell shady auto warranties can add one more example of consumer outrage to their collection: "terrorist threats" that have landed an Ohio man in the clink.

Recently, our sister blog discussed a class action filed against alleged auto warranty scammers. And there is also the Federal Trade Commission suit against auto warranty robocallers.

But for Charles Papenfus, the auto warranty scams that have irritated many of us became personal. After receiving junk mail informing him that the warranty on his family's 1996 Ford was about to expire, he called the company (which looks to be TXEN Partners, doing business under the name Service Protection Direct). Papenfus' issue was that the car hadn't had a warranty in years.

In fact, the company had already been accused by the Better Business Bureau of sending out fliers falsely claiming that recipients' warranties were about to expire. Then Ohio's Attorney General sued them over it, ending in a settlement -- with one condition being that they refer to expiring warranties only when they have a good faith belief it's true.

So one can understand Mr. Papenfus' ire at receiving yet another flier about his non-existent warranty expiring.

When someone from the company returned his call, things went down hill.

After allegedly being called a "jackass or an (expletive) or both" by the phone representative, Papenfus reportedly responded that he'd burn down TXEN Partners' office and kill the employees plus their families. (Perhaps at trial we'll learn whether this call was recorded for quality assurance purposes.)

One might chalk this up as auto warranty scam induced phone rage. The telemarketer on the other end of the line, apparently, did not.

According to Mrs. Papenfus, police lured her husband to the station with a story about needing to clear up whether he had been in a bar brawl. Upon arrival, he was arrested on a warrant from St. Louis. He was eventually indicted for having made terrorist threats against the auto warranty folks.

Since June 27, Papenfus as been held in St. Louis on $45,000 bail (which was reduced to $5,000 on Tuesday). He faces up to 4 years in prison if convicted of the Class D felony.

Papenfus' wife says he's normally a "cool headed guy." She told the St. Louis Dispatch that "[h]e shouldn't have mouthed off on the phone, but this is overkill."

Under Missouri law, a person is guilty of making a terrorist threat if they

  • communicate a threat to cause an incident or cause danger to life;
  • with the purpose of frightening 10 or more people; and
  • with at least criminal negligence or reckless disregard for "the risk of causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion of a building, inhabitable structure, place of assembly or facility of transportation."

Papenfus was indicted for making his threats with reckless disregard for causing the evacuation or closure of TXEN Partners' offices.

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