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Mail fraud, a felony, carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000 when individuals are involved and up to 30 years in prison and/or $1,000,000 in fines when a financial institution is involved.
People need to work to preserve dignity. And if this path is closed, some of them try to find something else, sometimes crossing the line.
Debt Relief and Credit Repair Scams Federal Trade Commission
Debt relief service scams target consumers with significant debt by falsely promising to negotiate with their creditors to settle or otherwise reduce repayment obligations. These operations often charge cash-strapped consumers a large up-front fee, but then fail to help them settle or lower their debts – if they provide any service at all. Some debt relief scams even tout their services using automated "robocalls" to consumers on the Do-Not-Call List.
The FTC has brought scores of law enforcement actions against these bogus credit-related services, and the agency has partnered with the states to bring hundreds of additional lawsuits.
Further, in 2010, the FTC amended its Telemarketing Sales Rule to protect consumers seeking debt relief services, like debt settlement or credit counseling.
The Rule prohibits for-profit companies that sell these services over the telephone from charging a fee before they actually settle or reduce a consumer's debt. It also prohibits debt relief providers from making misrepresentations and requires that they disclose key information that consumers need in evaluating these services.
Jul 10, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com
"In this industry, to build a big book, you have to run afoul of the regulators" -Charles M. Hallinan
A former Main Line investment banker known as the "Godfather of payday lending" for preying on low-income borrowers was sentenced Friday to 14 years in federal prison and stripped of over $64 million in assets, reports philly.com .
Lawyers for 77-year-old Charles M. Hallinan argued that the prison term might as well be a "death sentence" given his age and declining health, however District Judge Eduardo Robreno gave no quarter as he rendered his verdict after a jury convicted him of 17 counts, including racketeering, international money laundering and fraud.
"It would be a miscarriage of justice to impose a sentence that would not reflect the seriousness of this case," Robreno said. "The sentence here should send a message that criminal conduct like [this] will not pay."
In all, government lawyers estimate, Hallinan's dozens of companies made $492 million off an estimated 1.4 million low-income borrowers between 2007 and 2013, the period covered by the indictment.
Robreno's forfeiture order will strip Hallinan of many of the fruits of that business, including his $1.8 million Villanova mansion , multiple bank accounts, and a small fleet of luxury cars , including a $142, 000 2014 Bentley Flying Spur. In addition, the judge ordered Hallinan to pay a separate $2.5 million fine. - philly.com
When given the opportunity to address the court before his sentence was handed down, Hallinan remained silent.
Hallinan's case calls into question the legality of business tactics engaged in by predatory lenders across the country - such as Mariner Finance , a subsidiary of former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner 's private equity firm Warburg Pincus.
Many of the loans Hallinan made had exorbitant interest rates which greatly exceeded rate caps mandated by the states in which the borrowers live, such as Pennsylvania's 6% annual cap.
In court Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dubnoff argued that there was little difference between the exorbitant fees charged by money-lending mobsters and the annual interest rates approaching 800 percent that were standard on many of Hallinan's loans. - philly.com
"The only difference between Mr. Hallinan and other loan sharks is that he doesn't break the kneecaps of people who don't pay his debts," Dubnoff said. "He was charging more interest than the Mafia."
Hallinan "collect[ed] hundreds of millions of dollars in unlawful debt knowing that these businesses were unlawful, and all the while devising schemes to evade the law," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara L. Grieb and Maria M. Carrillo.
Hallinan's attorneys argued that Hallinan should receive house arrest after a recent diagnosis of two forms of aggressive cancer.
"What is just, under the circumstances?" Jacobs asked. "If there is going to be a period of incarceration, one that makes it so that Mr. Hallinan doesn't survive is not just."
Judge Robreno largely ignored the plea, though he did give Hallinan 11 days to get his medical affairs in order before he has to report to prison.
Many of those whose careers Hallinan helped to launch are now headed to prison alongside the "godfather" of payday lending, " a list that includes professional race car driver Scott Tucker, who was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison in January and ordered to forfeit $3.5 billion in assets," reports Philly .
Hallinan's codefendant and longtime lawyer, Wheeler K. Neff, was sentenced in May to eight years behind bars.
Hallinan got into the predatory lending business in the 1990s with $120 million after selling his landfill company to begin making payday loans over phone and fax. He rapidly grew his empire of dozens of companies which offered quick cash under such names as Instant Cash USA, Your First Payday and Tele-Ca$h.
As more than a dozen states, including Pennsylvania, effectively outlawed payday lending with laws attempting to cap the exorbitant fee rates that are standard across the industry, Hallinan continued to target low-income borrowers over the internet.
He tried to hide his involvement by instituting sham partnerships with licensed banks and American Indian tribes so he could take advantage of looser restrictions on their abilities to lend. But in practice he limited the involvement of those partners and continued to service all the loans from his offices in Bala Cynwyd. - philly.com
" He bet his lifestyle on the fact that we would not catch him. He lost that bet ," said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, William M. McSwain. " Now, it's time for Hallinan to repay his debt with the only currency we will accept: his freedom and his fortune, amassed at his victims' expense ."
1982xls -> HilteryTrumpkin Tue, 07/10/2018 - 14:59 PermalinkEmmittFitzhume -> 1982xls Tue, 07/10/2018 - 15:03 Permalink
MasterPo -> EmmittFitzhume Tue, 07/10/2018 - 15:06 Permalink
Charles Shylock HallinanMr. Universe -> Four chan Tue, 07/10/2018 - 15:27 Permalink
Just some pond scum floating on top of the swamp.
Most people have no clue what is about to be revealed, and it will rock their world. But for those of us that were red-pilled early on, it is heartening to see.
[Just caught the picture of the mansion.
"There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house." - Mother Goose
That Mom Goose sure called 'em like she saw 'em...]charlewar -> Mr. Universe Tue, 07/10/2018 - 15:31 Permalink
64 million in stripped assets. I wonder how much of that is going back to those who were fleeced? How much goes to .gov? Oh and inquiring minds want to know, what happened to the other 400 million plus?A Sentinel -> charlewar Tue, 07/10/2018 - 16:56 Permalink
All goes to the govt. The small fish need sue what's left.any_mouse -> A Sentinel Tue, 07/10/2018 - 17:19 Permalink
This is an evil business.
finally someone got tagged for ripping off us plebs.COSMOS -> CriticalUser Tue, 07/10/2018 - 18:07 Permalink
So you think.
Did any peons receive any restitution?
Maybe a buck each from a class action brought on by Saul's Legal Team.
Parasites. Parasites with Political, Financial, and Social control.
Think of the damage a parasite could do, if that parasite could control what the host sees, hears, thinks, feels, and even control the muscles. You would be in pain, but not feel it. You could be poisoning yourself with bitter poison, while believing it is sweet honey.Giant Meteor -> COSMOS Tue, 07/10/2018 - 18:23 Permalink
In all fairness this dude is pocked change compared to the tribe bankers.
None of the schmucks pulling off trillion dollar heists went to jail.MoreFreedom -> Mr. Universe Tue, 07/10/2018 - 16:27 Permalink
Sure, sure, point taken. But I don't believe that is a valid defense .. I get it, believe me. But I suspect if some higher profile cases with equilvalent outcomes aren't soon undertaken, some enterprising folks may soon take matters into their own hands .. And one could not blame them really ..vato poco -> MoreFreedom Tue, 07/10/2018 - 17:11 Permalink
One thing's for sure. There won't be any payday lenders operating in Pennsylvania, and poor people who need short term loans to deal with unexpected bills won't be getting any help, and instead will be suffering from the very high interest effective interest rates of late payment penalties. In defense of Hallinan, he didn't force anyone to sign up for these loans, he didn't break any kneecaps, and I'll bet his customers default on their loans at a high rate. There is also the legal question of from where the loan is made; given he had partners on Indian reservations and operated over the internet on behalf of those partnerships. Seems to me, the government is just grabbing this dying man's money. I'll bet he appeals the conviction to a higher court.
And does anyone believe US attorney Dubnoff who claims (which begs the question how he knows) that Hallinan charges more interest than the Mafia?
My other bet: Timothy Geithner won't be prosecuted for using the same tactics. And the poor will suffer more. While the article makes hay of Hallinan's wealth, he sold a waste management company (and I wouldn't be surprised there was political corruption involved in its growth given he lived in Philly) for $120 million and was already rich.
For a perspective in support of pay-day lenders, read these two Reason articles:
Full disclosure: The only money I ever borrowed was a few thousand for a student loan, and for my home mortgage.Giant Meteor -> MoreFreedom Tue, 07/10/2018 - 18:00 Permalink
that's a good post on an issue that's too easy to go all knee-jerk on. +1 for you.
I've got a coupla terrific young relatives that I'm schooling in financial knowhow - because their parents are knuckleheads about money - and lesson #2 was 'payday loans are financial crack.'
but the guy's lawyer WAS right to a degree: nobody made those victims/dumbasses sign up for them, and then not pay it back, thus flinging them into the ol' vicious downward spiral. also, there's this little fact: kids, if you find yourself lacking funds for a sudden unexpected financial expense, call it $500, you can 1) bounce a check 2) take a cash advance on your credit card, assuming you have any room left on it or 3) do the payday lender thing. let's say you only need the $ for 10 days, then ... I dunno .... then your tax refund check arrives.
cost of bouncing check (fees, etc), and bear in mind the bank will clear the big check first, thus making several other small checks bounce = $100? more?
cost of credit-card cash advance = $50, plus or minus
cost of payday loan vig = $15, plus or minus
they're kinda like handguns: just a tool. whether that tool saves your butt or ruins your life is entirely up to you, the adult. (the kids do not like this lesson very much - something about trying to avoid responsibility?)
the world is not necessarily all black and white. that said, I do hope that POS dies of treatable rectal cancer botched horribly by prison docs, resulting in a long, drawn-out, horribly agonizing death in a pink diaper
An interesting take. A friend to the poor . Never quite looked at it that way, and now, I have a tear in my eye . The poor fellow, friend to the poor working stiff.
Fucking friends like that . But at at least he wasn't breaking their knee caps and all. A real humanitarian!
Apr 07, 2016 | www.nj.com
email@example.com NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Scammers are creative, and they love to use the names of legitimate companies to make it sound for real.
This time around, it's Amazon. We heard about this one from a reader of the Bamboozled Facebook page. "Would Amazon call and want you to work for them and charge $395 for a website for you to work off of?" the reader asked.
She explained that she received a phone call from someone identifying himself as a rep from Amazon. The details of the proposal weren't clear, but the rep offered to help her set up a web page through Amazon. The reader, then, would market Amazon through the page and help the company reach more people, the rep explained. "They are going to call back at 2:00 tomorrow for the money," the reader said. "I was sure it was a scam but wanted to make sure. They were telling me I could make lots of money." A lot of money indeed, but not for anyone but the scammers.
The scammers, interestingly, never called the reader back, so we don't know for sure in what direction the fraud was going to go. But based on what we know of other scams, it probably would have gone like this:
The phony Amazon rep would have instructed the reader to send the $395 payment via Western Union, MoneyGram or another money transfer service that's near-impossible to trace.
Then the rep would set a time to work with her on the web page, but quickly, there would be a need for more payments. For advanced technical support. For software or web access to something deemed essential for the project. For whatever seemed appropriate to snatch more cash from the reader.
And there would probably be an ongoing monthly fee the victim would need to pay to keep the worthless web site active.
A new twist on an old scam looks to turn babysitters, dog walkers and other home care help into check fraud victims.
Or, the scammer might offer a big advance on pay, or tell the victim she's receiving a check to pay for some of the expenses. In that case, the victim would indeed receive the check, but it would be destined to bounce. The sender would tell the victim to deposit the check and send the money to a fake Amazon location to pay the start-up costs, but when the check is eventually determined by the bank to be fraudulent, the victim would be on the hook for the withdrawal.
We reached out to Amazon several times to ask about this scam, but no one returned our calls or emails.
Amazon will never just call you out of the blue with a job offer. There are ways to make money doing business with Amazon, but this isn't one of them.
- First, there's Amazon Associates. Through this program, you essentially market Amazon products on your own web site. It sounds similar to the fraud phone call, yes, but this is for real. Amazon isn't suggesting you start a new or costly web site, but instead, says If you already have a web site or blog that gets reader traffic, you will earn a percentage of whatever is sold through your site.
- Then there's Amazon Mechanical Turks. This is a marketplace for jobs that need to be done by humans instead of computers. It could be writing a short piece about a product, identifying actors in a movie, completing surveys, transcription, or almost anything. Some tasks need humans with specific skills, so you might have to take a qualification test before you get the task. If you perform the task, you'll get pre-set fee. Most fees are small, so you'd have to do a whole lot of mini-jobs to earn a decent paycheck.
- Bamboozled: Check fraud scam targets babysitters, dog walkers
Dec 13, 2016 | www.washingtonpost.com
People are so desperate to get out of debt that they will believe anything and anyone promising relief. They often turn to debt-relief companies promoting plans that can supposedly solve their problems. But for many, not only does the relief not come, but the steep cost of the plans - sometimes thousands of dollars - can also dig them in deeper.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission announced a $7.9 million settlement with one debt-relief operation that the agency said scammed people by making false promises. The company waived its rights to "challenge or contest" the charges, according to the settlement.
What the FTC found was troubling. And if the right knowledge is power, let's look at the anatomy of how this one scam worked.
The promoter: DebtPro 123. Unfortunately, this company is not alone. Just look for company names intended to lure you into thinking that they feel your pain and want to help eliminate your debt in just a few short years.
The pitch: According to the FTC complaint, DebtPro 123 told folks that its "debt resolution program would completely resolve consumers' credit card and other unsecured debts (including department store accounts, personal loans, medical bills, student loans, and accounts with collection agencies)."
It also told consumers: "DebtPro will reduce a client's total debt by 70 to 80 percent on average including all fees" and "With settlements as low as 10 percent, this means when all is said and done, a client's savings could be as much as 20 cents on the dollar including our fees."
Now really, doesn't that statement sound too good to be true?
And it was.
What would you say if you were told this? "With honest and informative advice, outstanding customer service, and a proven debt settlement process, we can ensure our clients become debt-free quickly and comfortably and get back on the path of financial freedom."
I homed in on two words: "quickly" and "comfortably."
Unless you come into some big bucks, the process of paying down your debts is long. It is painful. And if someone tells you different, don't believe it.
Oh, and there was the debt calculator to help the unbelievers. It was designed to back up the ridiculous claims of a quick debt reduction.
The two phases of the program: In phase one, customers put money in a "Creditor Fund/Settlement Account." They were told they needed this pot of money for negotiations with their creditors. In phase two, customers were assured that the company was working on their case to get all their debt terms changed.
During these phases, customers were advised to stop paying their bills and to stop all communications with their creditors. Bad move. Often in these cases, people find out later that nothing had been done on their behalf and that fees, interest and penalties had been piling on while they waited on relief.
The FTC complaint said DebtPro made reference to its "legal department." And, in phrasing that's mimicked by other such companies, DebtPro told its clients: "The attorneys will communicate directly with your creditors and debt collectors via the mail and telephone. They will audit your bills and the collection methods being used by the creditors to determine if your consumer rights have been violated."
Other promises: Your credit will be better because the firm will work to remove negative information from your credit files. Except it failed to make clear that if the information was true - that you didn't pay your bills as agreed - this information can't be removed. By law, most negative credit information can stay on your reports for seven years.
The real plan: Make money off desperate people. "For many consumers, more than half of their monthly payment went towards defendants' fees," the FTC said. "For consumers who were in the program longer than 18 months, defendants also charged a $49 monthly 'maintenance fee.' "
The failed promises
Debts weren't reduced quickly. In fact, in many instances, the debt-relief company didn't start settlement negotiations until after the client had received letters from creditors warning of an impending lawsuit for failure to make debt payments.
Settlements weren't significantly less than what was owed. Negative information was not removed. And there was "no legal department, 'legal in-house counsels' or any attorneys on staff," the FTC found.
People ended up with more debt, some lost their homes, and others had their wages garnished or had to file for bankruptcy protection.
Now that you know the inside deal, don't get suckered into this type of debt-relief scam.
Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary .
10/19/2015 7:08 AM EDT
How about a column on the D-list celebrities which tout questionable sites like debt-relief companies, reverse mortgages and so on - do they do any online research before pocketing their fees?
10/18/2015 8:23 PM EDT
There are companies, like Settle4Less, that do not charge the consumer any fees and doesn't require them to deposit money into a special account. The consumer is never told to stop paying their debts during the settlement process. No claims are made regarding credit score improvement or that the process will be successful.
10/17/2015 1:55 PM EDT
Collection companies buy your debt at auction for as little as two cents on the dollar. They then use Robo calls to harass you forever...If you are unable to pay the debt go to the nearest library and research ways and means to get these vultures off your back .
10/17/2015 11:03 AM EDT [Edited]
Depending on what state you live in, making the people who hold unsecured debt come after you is the least expensive route. Small claims court is the one they will try if they try at all, and that usually has severe limitations. Most of these companies are headquartered in some "business friendly" state which means they have to hire attorneys from your state to pursue you, which will make it prohibitively expensive and Superior court is ludicrously expensive for the creditor. If you can ride it out, you might not have to pay anything,. Hiring a debt relief company is probably the most expensive way to do it.
10/17/2015 8:43 AM EDT
if it sounds too good to be true......
10/16/2015 11:23 PM EDT
Sounds like a Washington Post neo-con scam. "For only a few trillion dollars, if you help us take out Saddam, the world will be better."
If only you support our policy of "taking out Bashar, and the freedom loving Salafists will turn Syria into a liberal haven".
I guess the debt relief people are invading their turf on b.s.ing the American people and they are mad.
Nov 13, 2016 | www.amazon.com
This is an abridged version of CRS Report R41930, Mail and Wire Fraud: A Brief Overview of Federal Criminal Law, by Charles Doyle, without the footnotes, appendix, quotation marks, or citations to authority found in the longer version. Related CRS reports include CRS Report R40852, Deprivation of Honest Services as a Basis for Federal Mail and Wire Fraud Convictions, by Charles Doyle.
Aug 27, 2013 | ctwatchdog.comBy LowCards.com The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed suit against a debt relief firm that has challenged the constitutionality of the consumer watchdog, alleging the company charged illegal fees and deceived customers.
The CFPB lawsuit against Morgan Drexen Inc. and its CEO, Walter Ledda, alleges the firm overcharged 22,000 of its customers millions of dollars in upfront fees tied to debt-relief services.
The agency said Morgan Drexen advertised its customers would not be charged any up-front fees, but ended up collecting them by disguising the fees as costs for bankruptcy-related services.
"This company took advantage of people who were struggling. The company charged consumers illegal fees and deceived them about the services provided," CFPB director Richard Cordray said in a statement.
Story by Michael Crittendon for the Wall Street Journal.
Sep 30, 2015 | www.consumerfinancialserviceslawmonitor.com
On September 2, the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida granted multiple motions for temporary restraining orders (TROs) by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the matter of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Orion Processing, LLC, Bradley James Haskins, World Law Debt Services, LLC, and World Law Processing, LLC. The CFPB originally filed a Complaint under the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 and the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act based on Defendants' violations of the CFPA and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The TROs include an asset freeze, injunctive relief, and other equitable relief against both World Law and its principals.
The CFPB alleges that "Defendants' marketers lure consumers into signing up for debt settlement services by falsely promising that consumers will be represented by local attorneys and that they will negotiate with consumers' creditors to settle their debts. Defendants are debt settlement veterans who joined forces after federal law changed to prevent fraud by banning the taking of up-front fees before settling consumers' debts. In an apparent attempt to circumvent that new law, Defendants began claiming that they provide legal representation," but continued charging consumers up-front fees for debt relief services.
The CFPB estimates that 21,000 consumers across the country have paid more than $67 million in unlawful advance fees to World Law, who ultimately provide little or none of the services promised to consumers. According to the agency, 99 percent of World Law's customers were made to pay illegal upfront fees, including a $199 initial fee, a monthly attorney service fee of $85, and other "bundled legal service fees" that ranged from 10 to 15 percent of the consumers' outstanding debt.
According to the CFPB, World Law and its affiliates made false representations about the quality and level of service World Law purported to provide. Consumers rarely, if ever, met or communicated with actual lawyers and, "[a]s a result, consumers paid millions of dollars in illegal fees and suffered additional harms, including being subjected to collection calls, lawsuits, late fees and lower credit scores," the agency said.
According to court documents, World Law, Orion Processing, and Family Capital have all entered into bankruptcy.
Using a debt negotiation, debt settlement, debt consolidation, or debt elimination company is usually not a good idea.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty, you may be tempted to use a debt relief company to help take care of your bills. Often times, settling with your creditors is a good alternative to filing bankruptcy. However, before you hire a company to help with your debts, you should first understand the differences in services that debt relief companies claim to offer, as well as the potential risks involved. This article discusses three basic types of debt relief schemes.
Debt negotiation, or debt settlement, programs work by modifying your existing credit cards, loans, or other debts, in the following ways:
reducing monthly payments
reducing or waiving finance charges and late fees
negotiating lump sum settlements, usually at a reduction of 50% or more of the principal balance, or
a combination of all the above.
Lump sum settlements and payment plans are frequently accepted by creditors. You can directly negotiate with them yourself, without having to use a debt relief company.Disadvantages to Using a Debt Settlement Company
If you do decide to hire a debt relief company, use caution. Here's why.Large Up Front Fees
Debt settlement companies often charge large fees up front for its services.Companies Take the Money and Run
While it is not uncommon for debt relief companies to charge upfront fees, some disreputable companies will then disappear and never perform the promised services. Or companies promise to use some or all of the fee it charges you to pay your debts, but then pocket the money instead of paying your creditors.
Go with a company that provides detailed disclosures on how the fee is charged and spent. Some debt settlement companies agree to defer their fee until after a settlement or payment plan has been reached.Payment Defaults
A debt relief company may tell you to stop making payments to your creditors. If you have already fallen behind on payments, then this is not an issue. But if you are current on your payments, this poses a dilemma.
Some creditors won't give you the best deal if you are a "good consumer." They have a policy of refusing to reduce balances or interest rates below a certain amount unless a borrower is in default, the theory being that you are in good financial shape if you are current on your payments. They will not agree to major reductions of balances, finance charges, or payment plans unless you show a financial hardship by way of a default, often of 90 days or more. Creditors sometimes call this being "90 days out."
A debt relief company may exploit this industry secret by advising you to default on all of your debts for 90 days, and then use this money to pay the debt settlement company instead. But by intentionally defaulting, you risk damaging your credit history and incurring default-rate finance charges and late fees.
If you are already having financial trouble, then this might not be a big issue for you. However, if you are not already in default, you should avoid this strategy. Here are some tips to effectively maneuver the default tango using a debt relief company:Related Ads
Communication Shut Down
Do not stop making payments to your creditors unless a specific creditor specifically conditions a desired settlement upon a default.
Carefully weigh all of your settlement options (payment plan vs. lump sum settlement) with the debt relief company, preferably using a budget.
Debt settlement is a last resort. You may be better off going with a reduced interest rate/payment plan rather than sacrifice your good credit with debt settlement.
Unfortunately, some debt relief companies will take the money and run, never once speaking with the creditors that they agreed to negotiate with on your behalf. A debt relief company may make you feel so comfortable that you stop communicating with your creditors. Don't. Stay in close communication with your creditors during the negotiation process.
(Learn more about debt negotiation firms and debt management companies .)
Some debt relief agencies offer to consolidate your debts for you. They promise to pool all of your debts together so that you make a single payment, to be shared by all of the creditors. While a consolidation of your debts can potentially save you a lot of money, there are many disadvantages.
Consolidations usually cover only unsecured debts like credit cards. They do not cover big expense debts like mortgages and student loans.
Creditors are not required to participate in the consolidation. If one of your creditors does not agree to be a part of the consolidation, you will have to deal with it separately.
Consolidations are not necessarily final. You are still exposed to lawsuits, judgments, liens, and other collection actions even after making your consolidation payments.
The fees a debt consolidation company charges you may be so high that it cancels any savings under a new consolidation plan.
Learn more about debt consolidation scams .
Treading into fantasy territory, there are some companies that claim to completely eliminate your debts. Not to be confused with debt elimination plans that provide for controlled spending and a structured payoff of your debts, a debt elimination scheme usually involves an upfront fee for a document that purports to be a legal declaration that the debt is eliminated. Unless the person advising you is an attorney or there is some legitimate legal basis for not paying a particular debt, you should immediately walk away from any such promises.
Consider Other Debt Relief Options
Getting the right kind debt relief is not easy. It involves time, careful planning, and full consideration of your legal rights and financial abilities. Many debt relief schemes, even if done perfectly, may not fully address all of your problems. Despite the allure of their promises, you could wind up in worse legal and financial shape than when you started. Instead, consider other options for getting your debts under control, including:
- dealing with the creditors directly yourself (for tips on how to do this, see our Debt Settlement & Negotiation With Creditors topic area)
- consulting with local consumer credit counselors, home mortgage assistance agencies, and similar nonprofit programs
- talking to an attorney, who can offer a wider range of debt-related representation such as potential consumer law and contractual issue defenses, or
- considering bankruptcy .
Mar 18, 2016 | www.consumerfinance.govCourt Rules that Morgan Drexen and Walter Ledda Charged Illegal Upfront Fees and Deceived Consumers
WASHINGTON, D.C. -At the request of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal district court entered a final judgment this week against debt relief company Morgan Drexen, Inc., resolving a lawsuit filed by the CFPB in August 2013. The Bureau's lawsuit against Morgan Drexen alleged that the company charged illegal upfront fees and deceived consumers. The court found that the company violated federal law, prohibited Morgan Drexen from collecting any further fees from its customers, and ordered it to pay $132,882,488 in restitution and a $40 million civil penalty. This decision follows a stipulated final judgment against Morgan Drexen's president and chief executive officer, Walter Ledda, that the court approved in October. The court found that Ledda violated federal law, banned him from providing debt relief services, and required him to pay restitution and a civil money penalty.
"The CFPB's victory sends a strong message that debt relief companies break the law when they defraud struggling consumers, and those actions have consequences for which we will hold them accountable," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "The court's orders against Morgan Drexen and Mr. Ledda ensure that they will never again violate the rights of consumers, and the significant penalties imposed reflect the severity of this illegal conduct."Debt Relief Scheme
Morgan Drexen is a nationwide debt relief company that was founded by Walter Ledda in 2007. The CFPB sued Morgan Drexen and Ledda in 2013, alleging that they had violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act by charging illegal upfront fees for debt relief services and misrepresenting their services to consumers.
The Telemarketing Sales Rule prohibits deception in telemarketing and generally prohibits debt relief providers from charging a fee for any debt relief service until they have actually settled, reduced, or otherwise altered the terms of at least one of the consumer's debts.
When consumers signed up for Morgan Drexen's services, the company presented them with two contracts, one for debt settlement services, and the other for bankruptcy-related services. Based on its investigation, the Bureau brought suit alleging that consumers who signed up sought services for debt relief and not bankruptcy, that little to no bankruptcy work was actually performed for consumers, and that the bankruptcy-related contract Morgan Drexen presented to consumers was a ruse designed to disguise impermissible upfront fees for debt relief work.
In January 2015, weeks before trial was scheduled to start, the Bureau learned that Morgan Drexen had created and altered bankruptcy petitions that it submitted to the court as evidence of having provided bankruptcy services.
The CFPB informed the court of its findings and filed a motion seeking the sanction of default judgment against the company. After hearing testimony from Ledda, other Morgan Drexen representatives, and a whistleblower who exposed the company's conduct, the court issued an order in April 2015 finding that Morgan Drexen misled the court and "acted willfully and in bad faith by falsifying evidence." On the basis of its findings, the court sanctioned Morgan Drexen by entering default judgment against the company.
Shortly thereafter, in June 2015, the court issued a permanent injunction against Morgan Drexen in which it deemed that the company had charged consumers illegal upfront fees for debt relief services and violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule and Dodd-Frank Act by deceptively describing its services. The court prohibited the company from collecting any more money from customers and banned it from charging upfront fees for debt relief services. Morgan Drexen sought bankruptcy protection the day after the court issued its order, and a trustee was appointed to administer the company's shutdown and to maintain proper communication with affected consumers.
Final Judgments Against Ledda and Morgan Drexen
The court's March 16, 2016 final judgment against Morgan Drexen memorializes its June 2015 conclusion that the company violated federal law, and its ruling that the company may not collect any more advance fees for debt relief services, or any more fees at all from its customers. The final judgment also orders Morgan Drexen to:
- Pay $132,882,488 in restitution: Morgan Drexen is required to pay this amount to borrowers who enrolled in the company's program between Oct. 27, 2010, when the federal ban on upfront fees went into effect, and June 18, 2015, when Morgan Drexen stopped selling debt relief services.
- Pay a $40 million civil penalty: Morgan Drexen must pay this amount to the CFPB's civil penalty fund.
Because Morgan Drexen has declared bankruptcy, any payment of this judgment will occur through the bankruptcy process.
The court's October 2015 final judgment against Walter Ledda contains similar findings and injunctive and monetary relief. In that judgment, the court found that Ledda and Morgan Drexen violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Dodd-Frank Act by charging consumers illegal upfront fees for debt relief services, and by making deceptive statements about the company's services. Under the terms of the final judgment, Ledda will:
- Pay $500,000 to the CFPB for consumer redress: The final judgment requires Ledda to pay $500,000 to the CFPB for use in providing redress to consumers.
- Surrender additional assets: The final judgment requires Ledda to turn over additional assets to the Morgan Drexen bankruptcy estate.
- Pay a civil money penalty: Ledda is required to pay $1 to the CFPB's Civil Penalty Fund. The Bureau did not require Ledda to pay a larger penalty because of his limited financial resources after repaying harmed consumers.
- Exit the debt relief industry: The court has permanently banned Ledda from providing debt relief services or otherwise working in the debt relief industry.
The court also imposed a $99 million equitable money judgment and $20 million civil money penalty against Ledda, both of which are in large part suspended based on Ledda's inability to pay. If Ledda fails to make any of the required payments or turn over his assets, or if the CFPB discovers Ledda misrepresented his financial condition, the full $99 million judgment and $20 million penalty will become due immediately.
Attorneys Found In Contempt
After the court's June 2015 order prohibiting Morgan Drexen from charging fees for debt relief services, two attorneys, Vincent Howard and Lawrence Williamson, took the reins of Morgan Drexen and continued the company's unlawful conduct. Among other things, Howard and Williamson:
- Hired more than 50 former Morgan Drexen employees, including the company's former owner and chief technology officer, and former chief financial officer;
- Continued to charge fees to harmed consumers pursuant to the same contracts under which Morgan Drexen charged the consumers unlawful fees; and
- Provided consumers misleading information about Morgan Drexen's shut-down and contradicted the advice in court-approved letters about how consumers could protect themselves in light of Morgan Drexen's unlawful conduct.
When the CFPB learned of Howard and Williamson's actions, it filed a motion requesting that the court hold the attorneys and their law firms in contempt of the court's order. In October 2015, the court found that the attorneys' conduct had violated the court's order, and held the attorneys and their law firms in contempt. The court ordered the attorneys to return all payments they had received from former Morgan Drexen consumers since the court's June 2015 decision to ban Morgan Drexen from receiving such fees. The court also ruled that the attorneys will be fined $10,000 a day for each day they continue to accept fees from former Morgan Drexen consumers. The attorneys have appealed this order.
A copy of the court's final judgment against Morgan Drexen and Walter Ledda can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201603_cfpb_final-judgment-against-defendant-morgan-drexen-inc.pdf
A copy of the civil minutes regarding the judgment can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201603_cfpb_civil-minutes-regarding-the-final-judgment-against-defendant-morgan-drexen-inc.pdf
A copy of the court's contempt order concerning the attorneys can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201603_cfpb_order-holding-vincent-howard-lawrence-williamson-howard-law-pc-the-williamson-law-firm-llc-and-williamson-howard-llp-in-contempt.pdf
Important information for customers of Morgan Drexen is available at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/debt-settlement-company-morgan-drexen-is-no-longer-in-business-what-you-should-know/
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov .
Debt relief service scams target consumers with significant credit card debt by falsely promising to negotiate with their creditors to settle or otherwise reduce consumers' repayment obligations. These operations often charge cash-strapped consumers a large up-front fee, but then fail to help them settle or lower their debts – if they provide any service at all. Some debt relief scams even tout their services using automated "robocalls" to consumers on the Do-Not-Call List.
Auto loan modification scams falsely promise that they can reduce consumers' monthly car loan or lease payments to help them avoid repossession. The FTC also works to make sure consumers get a fair deal in the auto marketplace.
Credit repair scams also frequently target financially distressed consumers who are having credit problems. These operations lure consumers to purchase their services by falsely claiming that they will remove negative information from consumers' credit reports even if that information is accurate.
The FTC has brought scores of law enforcement actions against these bogus credit-related services, and the agency has partnered with the states to bring hundreds of additional lawsuits. Further, in 2010, the FTC amended its Telemarketing Sales Rule to protect consumers seeking debt relief services, like debt settlement or credit counseling. The Rule prohibits for-profit companies that sell these services over the telephone from charging a fee before they actually settle or reduce a consumer's debt. It also prohibits debt relief providers from [making misrepresentations and requires that they disclose key information that consumers need in evaluating these services.]
Nov 11, 2016 | www.nbcnews.com
A widespread problem
In the last few years, the Federal Trade Commission has sued more than dozen debt relief companies. "They simply lie to consumers," says the FTC's Alice Hrdy.
FTC ad IRS investigators have also found some counseling services that claim to be non-profit when they are actually a for-profit company. The non-profit pitch can make a potential client feel confident about signing up for the service. "They're preying on the consumer's trust," Hrdy says.
Some of the bad apples in this industry mislead people about their charges. "They either say there are no fees involved or just a small fee," Hrdy explains. Sometimes, they don't mention fees at all.
Bruce, who lives near Seattle, signed up with a company that promised to lower his interest rates. He was told to send them a check for $265.
"It was my clear understanding that money was going to pay off my credit card bills," Bruce told me. It turned out to be a "referral fee" to find him a company that would supposedly help him.
"It was a nasty experience," Bruce says. "They basically stole my money."
Warning: Debt settlement programs
Some companies now claim they can negotiate a one-time settlement with all of your creditors that will reduce your principal by as much as 50 to 70 percent. By doing this, they say, your monthly payments will drop dramatically.
"That is virtually impossible under any circumstances," says Travis Plunkett, Legislative Director of the Consumer Federation of America. That's why CFA warns consumers not to use debt settlement programs. "They are promising something they can't deliver," Plunkett says.
Credit counselors - a better option
Charles Helms, president of Consumer Counseling Northwest, sees a lot of people who have been burned by these phony debt relief programs. "It's horrible," he says. Because most of them have a large up-front fee, they'll take anyone who can pay.
"Their goal is to get you to sign up, not to successfully complete the program," Helms says. "So here's someone who is financially damaged to begin with and then these companies just go out and take the last of their resources and kill any hope they have of getting out of that situation."
With a legitimate credit counselor, there is no right answer for everyone. They sit down with you and give you a free and objective assessment of your financial situation. At Credit Counseling Northwest, they saw 6,000 people last year and found that debt management was the right option for only 19 percent of them. The rest were given a plan to work things out on their own.
With a customized consolidated payment plan you should be able to pay off your credit card debt in 3 to 5 years. You write the counseling agency one check each month and they pay all your creditors.
Do your homework
Facing mounting bills can be frightening, but getting debt relief is not a decision that should be based on hearing a radio commercial or getting a sales call. You want to find an organization that will design a debt relief plan specifically for you.
Shop around. Compare a couple of services and get a feel for how they operate. The credit counselor should spend at least 20 to 30 minutes with you in order to get a complete picture of your finances. If they don't do that, you're not really getting any counseling.
Ask a lot of questions and get those answers in writing. Find out about the fees. The Consumer Federation of America says you shouldn't pay more than $50 for the set-up fee and no more than a $25 monthly maintenance fee. If the agency is vague or reluctant to talk about fees, go someplace else.
Don't rely on names or the claim of a non-profit status. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau or your local consumer protection office.
By doing your homework you should be able to find a service that doesn't over-charge or over-promise. Here's a good place to start: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling . They'll help you find a certified counselor near you.
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