FCC plays whack-a-mole with telcos accused of profiting from robocalls

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A suspicious phone company is on the verge of having all its calls blocked by US-based telcos after being accused of ignoring orders to investigate and block robocalls.

One Owl Telecom is a US-based gateway provider that routes phone calls from outside the US to consumer phone companies such as Verizon. “Robocalls on One Owl’s network apparently bombarded consumers without their consent with prerecorded messages about fictitious orders,” the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday.

On August 1, the FCC sent One Owl a Notification of Suspected Illegal Robocall Traffic ordering it to investigate robocall traffic identified by USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group, block all of the identified traffic within 14 days, and “continue to block the identified gateway traffic as well as substantially similar traffic on an ongoing basis.”

One Owl apparently hasn’t taken any of the required steps, the FCC said yesterday. “One Owl never responded, and the [FCC Enforcement] Bureau is not aware of any measures One Owl has taken to comply with the Notice,” an FCC order said.

Robocall whack-a-mole

Blocking robocall traffic from companies like One Owl is a bit like playing whack-a-mole. The FCC said it previously took enforcement actions “against two other entities to whom One Owl is closely related: Illum Telecommunication Limited and One Eye LLC. While operating under different corporate names, these entities have shared personnel, IP addresses, customers, and a penchant for disregarding FCC rules.”

If One Owl doesn’t provide an adequate response within 14 days, all phone companies receiving calls from it “will then be required to block and cease accepting all traffic received from One Owl beginning 30 days after release of the Final Determination Order,” the FCC said.

“One Owl faces a simple choice—comply or lose access to US communications networks,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal said in a press release.

The Industry Traceback Group investigated robocalls sent through One Owl between February and May of this year, the FCC said. “Some calls purported to be from ‘AMC Trading LLC’ and stated that ‘your product is ready to ship.’ The calls asked consumers to confirm the order. Other calls stated that a ‘pre-authorized order’ had been ‘placed on your name.’ The calls did not state what the order was for or where the order was placed,” the FCC said.

The FCC said One Owl’s CEO is Aashay Khandelwal, and that he is a resident of Maryland who also has a presence in Las Vegas and Mumbai, India. He was listed as a human resources representative at Illum.

Illum’s CEO was a person named Prince Anand, “who sometimes uses the alias ‘Frank Murphy,'” the FCC said. Anand created One Eye after the FCC issued an enforcement action against Illum in October 2021.

“To deflect the FCC’s scrutiny, Anand intended to keep his name off One Eye’s corporate documents,” the FCC’s August 2023 letter said. “Kaushal Bhavsar, a director of Illum, became One Eye’s CEO. Aashay Khandelwal, the Human Resource Representative for Illum, subsequently formed One Owl and became the CEO.”

Successor company faces same fate

The FCC ordered all voice service providers to block One Eye traffic in May 2023. Now its successor company, One Owl, faces the same outcome.

One Owl and One Eye used the same IP address and email domain to conduct their business and “shared customers that the FCC has explicitly identified as the source of illegal traffic,” the FCC said.

The history of the FCC’s actions against One Owl, One Eye, and Illum suggests that the fight against the group of people behind the robocall senders is not over. The FCC seemed to acknowledge that in its press release, saying the Enforcement Bureau “will continue to closely monitor One Owl and any related entities.”

Anand is said to have a presence in Mumbai and Dubai. Bhavsar is a resident of Ahmedabad in India and has a presence in Delaware, the FCC said. Another key figure, One Owl VP of Sales and Marketing Julya Barros, is listed as a resident of Mumbai and Dubai.

While One Owl has foreign ties, the FCC classifies it as US-based because it has US-based facilities that are used to process calls from foreign providers.

“Efforts to operate under the cloak of ever-changing corporate formations to serve the same dubious clientele demonstrate willful attempts to circumvent the law to originate and carry illegal traffic,” the FCC’s August 1 letter said.

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