The Federal Trade Commission charged an Irvine, California-based scheme with billing consumers as much as $10,000 after making deceptive claims that it would provide legal advice, settle consumers’ debts, and repair their credit in three years or less. Instead, the scheme often left consumers in financial ruin, the agency charged.
The FTC alleged that the DebtPro 123 LLC defendants told consumers to stop paying and communicating with their creditors. As a result, although consumers hired the defendants in hopes of improving their financial situation, their debt often increased, causing them to lose their homes, have their wages garnished, lose their retirement savings, or file for bankruptcy, according to the complaint. Although the defendants promised to refund unsatisfied customers, they rarely did.
“These defendants said they would get consumers out of debt, but instead they bilked them out of thousands of dollars, often leaving them worse off than they were before,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Ringleader Bryan Taylor and three other individuals, along with DebtPro 123 and five other companies marketed their bogus debt relief services through telemarketing calls, website ads, promotional videos and marketing companies that acted as lead generators, according to the complaint. Promising that in as little as 18 months consumers could “become debt free and enjoy financial independence,” the defendants claimed their “Legal Department” would “leverage their existing relationships with all of the major creditors to negotiate the best possible resolution.” The defendants claimed that consumers could reduce the amount they owed by 30 to 70 percent.
The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Credit Repair Organizations Act, not only through their false promises, but also by providing their affiliate marketing companies with deceptive materials to deceive consumers and by collecting an advance fee for their bogus debt relief services.
The Commission vote to file the complaint against Bryan Taylor; Kara Taylor; Ryan Foland; Stacey Frion; DebtPro 123, LLC; BET Companies Inc.; Redwave Management Group Inc.; Allstar Debt Relief LLC (California); Allstar Debt Relief LLC (Texas); and Allstar Processing Corp. was 4-0-1, with Commissioner McSweeny not participating. The FTC filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on May 2, 2014.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.