Two individuals have been charged for allegedly tricking small trucking companies into paying them for federal and state motor carrier registrations by impersonating government transportation agencies.

A federal judge granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request for a preliminary injunction against James P. Lamb and Uliana Bogash for violating the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence ACT. The two operated under the company names Inc., and Inc., Excelsior Enterprises Internationl, and JPL Enterprises International.

According to the FTC complaint, the defendants took more than $19 million from thousands of small businesses by sending misleading robocalls, emails and text messages that created the false impression that they were affiliated with the Department of Transportation, the Unified Carrier Registration system, or another government agency.

Lamb and Bogash allegedly used official sounding names, websites to send the companies fake warnings of $1,000 civil penalties or fines for non-compliance or threats of imminent law enforcement to coerce the companies into using their registration services instead of official government website services.

The complaint also states the defendants obscured the total amount charged by not telling customers that the cost included service fees that ranged from $25 to $500 or more. Additionally, many consumers who paid the defendants’ UCR fees were automatically enrolled in an annual renewal program without knowledge or consent.