In the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and State of Ohio suit against a payment processor that was taking care of payments made to two student loan assistance companies, interesting additional details have emerged.
My post on the shuttering of companies can be found here.
The point of the spear here looks like a company named Madera Merchant Services and B&P Enterprises. Madera was a third-party payment processor that credited checks to withdraw money from consumers’ bank accounts on behalf of companies, including student loan assistance and credit card rate reduction operations. The remote checks are also called Remotely Created Processing Orders (RCPOs).
The payment processor was allegedly courting risky businesses to process payment for. Court documents say, “Defendants market their RCPO services to telemarketers and other merchants that financial institutions and the card networks consider high risk.”
And the way they are said to have conducted this activity was to “apply for business checking accounts with financial institutions, misrepresenting the services they provide and failing to disclose that they will use the accounts to process consumer payments for third parties.”
Some of the companies involved with the RCPO payment processor included the following:
“In February 2018, the FTC sued AFB Center and its owner, Brandon Frere, alleging that the student loan debt relief telemarketing operation had bilked more than $28 million from thousands of consumers by falsely promising that consumers’ monthly payments would go towards paying off their student loans.
On November 29,2018, the court entered a preliminary injunction, which included a receiver over the AFB Center corporate defendants and an asset freeze against AFB Center and Frere.
The Receiver’s Staus report that explained why they had shut down AFB Center, noted that AFB Center’s “businesses cannot operate legally and profitably going forward. Even at this late stage -having been in litigation with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) since the summer of 2017 – deceptive and illegal practices are ingrained in, and are central to, the profitable operation of the business.”
On December 5,2018, the US Attorney for the Northern District of California charged Brandon Frere with wire fraud. US v, Frere, Case No. 3:18-mj- 71724-SK (N.D. Cal.).67 The FTC action is currently stayed for nine months.
Defendants had been providing RCPO services to AFB Center since Spring 2016.
Bruce Woods executed the processing agreement with AFB Center.Defendants opened RCPO accounts under the dba AFB Center with at least four banks: Pioneer Bank, Associated Bank, Horizon Bank, First American Bank, transferring more than $566,000 in net proceeds from RCPOs to AFB Center after June 13,2016.71
Impetus was another student debt relief telemarketing scheme. One of the operators of the scheme was Tuan Duong, an FTC recidivist.
On November 13,2018, in response to the FTC action, the court issued an ex parte TRO, providing for an asset freeze, appointing a receiver, and authorizing access to defendants’ offices.
On November 29, 2018, the court granted the FTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction with the same remedies as the TRO.
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On May 29,2019, the court entered a stipulated final order as to defendant Tuan Duong that includes the following findings: (1) Duong violated a previous order by promoting debt relief services through Impetus; and (2) through telemarketing. Impetus made material misrepresentations about debt relief to consumers.
Defendants had provided RCPO processing services to Impetus since December 2017. They opened accounts under the dbas of Impetus with at least seven banks, transferring more than $580,000 in net RCPO proceeds to Impetus after June 13, 2016.
Educare is a credit card interest rate reduction scheme that the FTC and the State of Ohio allege unlawfully calls consumers, often using pre-recorded “robo-calls,” and misrepresents to consumers that Educare’s credit card interest rate reduction service can significantly and permanently lower consumers’ credit card interest rates. As noted above.
Plaintiffs are suing Educare concurrently in a related action in this District. Educare’s principals reside in Canada and it uses a telemarketer located in the Dominican Republic.
Defendants have been providing RCPO services to Educare since at least January 2016. Defendants have opened accounts under various dbas of Educare, including Revit Educ Srvc, L.L. Vision, and Care Value Services, with at least 15 banks and credit unions. Banks and credit unions have routinely closed accounts that Defendants opened to process RCPOs for Educare, with at least four of the accounts having return rates of 20% or more. This rate of returned checks is extreme. Since 2015, NACHA, the trade association governing Automated ClearingHouse (ACH) transactions, has required banks to report and investigate any merchant with a monthly return rate of .5 percent or more for returns categorized as unauthorized. Educare also has received an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau with numerous complaints.
Defendants transferred more than $7.5 million in net RCPO proceeds to Educare after June 13,2016.84.” – Source