I received the following audio file of one of those automated dialer student loan assistance calls so many people, including myself, receive on a daily basis.
I hate to characterize the call but just simply from a logic point of view it makes little sense.
What you will hear is the call begins with an automatic dialer making an inbound call. That leads to a couple of levels of qualification and screening and finally gets transferred to a company named Riverwalk Debt Solutions.
Let’s walk through this call.
00:02 Automated bot “artificially intelligent receptionist” starts asking qualification questions to person who received the call.
00:08 “This is not a solicitation. This is a notification call.” the automated voice says.
00:16 The call says it is a compliance call. This seems particularly dubious since it ends in a solicitation and does not come from the U.S. Department of Education of a valid student loan servicer.
00:39 The consumer is told if they currently have a federal student loan there is important information they need to know.
00:56 The automated bot goes from this is not a solicitation call to “we have a very easy solution for you.”
01:06 “So as soon as you file and show proof that you can’t afford to pay the loan the Department of Education will say thank you for showing us, now you don’t have to pay.”
01:28 “Okay I’m going to connect you with a service that is directly integrated to the Department of Education website. They will be able to tell you for sure if you qualify for the forgiveness program or not.”
02:13 Consumer is transferred to an unidentified person who says they are to review the federal student loan status. The guy asks for the FSA ID to access the consumer’s information with the Department of Education. When the consumer says they don’t have the ID the call gets transferred to another automated message.
02:43 The automated message now swings into information regarding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and then makes claims the program in 2015 was “extended to anyone that had any income and were not in school and were struggling to make those payments.”
04:01 The consumer is connected with a female who says she is with “student loan assistance.” She asks questions about student loan debt. The consumer asks if the person is with his student loan servicer. He is told “No we are through the Department of Education with a consolidation company. We take your loan from your lender and transfer it to the correct branch with the Department of Education.”
06:08 The consumer is told his lender is not going to tell him about these government programs “they are just going to make money off of you by keeping your loan and building interest every single day.”
06:56 The female says the consolidation company is called Riverwalk and goes on to later say it is at RiverwalkDebt.com.
07:16 The consumer asks the representative if she can send him an email and she says the only thing she can send is a 16-page contract “everything in fine print.”
08:15 The consumer asks if there are “fees you have to pay basically with the Department of Education to get this done?” The representative says, “Right, the processing payment gets it consolidated and get you enrolled into the program. With government programs you are always going to have a processing payment to get it to show it’s in process.”
09:09 The consumer asks for an email again and is told she can’t send anything until the contract is sent. One of the items required to send the contract is a “card to put on file.”
You Can Listen to the Call I Was Sent Below
Riverwalk Debt Solutions
The representative that says she is with Riverwalk, in my opinion, seems to give the impression they are working with or through the Department of Education. The Riverwalk Debt Solutions website gives a different message:
“Riverwalk Debt Solutions is a private company and is not a branch of or affiliated with the Department of Education nor is it endorsed by any Federal, State, or Local government agency. RWDS is a document management and processing organization that prepares documents for consolidation through the Department of Education. Riverwalk Debt Solutions is not a bank or lender and does not underwrite loans, create or make loans, negotiate with lenders, pay off debts, negotiate debts, alter debts or decrease interest rates and principal balances on any types of loans. To facilitate paperwork for a borrower or client through the Department of Education, we will need to get permission to access, review and store the borrowers/clients 4 digit Federal Pin Number. We will not certify to false or misleading information regarding a borrower or clients PIN Number.” – Source
Riverwalk Debt Solutions says they are located at 9151 Boulevard 26, Suite 175B, North Richland Hills, TX 76180. – Source
That address led to a BBB listing. The company has a C- rating. They also say there are alternate business names and related businesses:
Riverwalk Debt Solutions, Inc
Riverwalk Student Loan Relief
Halo Debt Solutions, Inc
Platinum Capital Investments
Riverwalk Holdings LTD
Riverwalk Financial Corporation
Riverwalk Credit Solutions, LLC
Halo Credit Solutions, LLC
DeVille Asset Management, Ltd
The BBB says Jay B. Ledford is the president and Cameron Jezierski, is operations.
Additionally, the BBB provides the following information:
“Securities and Exchange Commission vs Kevin B. Merrill; Jay B. Ledford; Cameron R. Jezierski; Global Credit Recovery, LLC; DelMarva Capital, LLC; Rhino Capital Holdings, LLC; Rhino Capital Group, LLC; DeVille Asset Management Ltd; and Riverwalk Financial Corporation
The following describes a pending government action that has been formally brought by a government agency but has not yet been resolved. We are providing a summary of the government’s allegations, which have not yet been proven.
On September 13, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Charges filed allege Kevin B. Merill, Jay B. Ledford and Cameron R. Jezierski raised more than $345 million from over 230 investors to purportedly purchase consumer debt portfolios. From at least 2013 to present, the SEC alleges Merill, Ledford and Jezierski operated this Ponzi-like scheme that involved, among other things, securities offerings rife with misrepresentations, fake debt, forged signatures, fabricated wire transfers, the movement of millions of dollars into personal accounts, and an elaborate scheme wherein they offered and sold investments in the same (and often fictitious) debt and/or debt portfolios, to multiple victims
Touting their purported expertise in collecting on and reselling consumer debt, Merrill and Ledford, through a web of entities they owned and/or controlled, including Global Credit Recovery, LLC; Delmarva Capital, LLC; Rhino Capital Holdings, LLC; Rhino Capital Group, LLC; DeVille Asset Management LTD; and Riverwalk Financial Corporation allegedly offered and sold securities to investors with the promise of significant profits.
For more details on this pending case, go to https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-201.”
That full press release says, “Washington D.C., Sept. 19, 2018 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced it has obtained a court order halting an ongoing Ponzi-like scheme that raised more than $345 million from over 230 investors across the U.S. The SEC also obtained an emergency asset freeze and the appointment of a receiver.
An SEC complaint unsealed yesterday alleges that Kevin B. Merrill, Jay B. Ledford and Cameron Jezierski attracted investors to their scheme by promising significant profits from the purchase and resale of consumer debt portfolios. But in fact, the defendants were allegedly using a web of lies, fabricated documents, and forged signatures in an elaborate scheme to entice investors and perpetuate the fraud. Rather than direct investor funds to the acquisition and servicing of debt portfolios as promised, the defendants allegedly used the funds to make Ponzi-like payments to earlier investors. The SEC also alleges that Merrill and Ledford stole at least $85 million of the investor funds to maintain lavish lifestyles, spending millions of dollars on luxury items, including $10.2 million on at least 25 high-end cars, $330,000 for a 7-carat diamond ring, $168,000 for a 23-carat diamond bracelet, millions of dollars on luxury homes, and $100,000 to a private fitness club.
“The defendants touted their purported investment expertise to siphon millions of dollars from unsuspecting investors,” said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We filed this action on an emergency basis to put a stop to this fraud and protect investors from further harm.”
“We allege that the defendants engaged in a brazen fraud, deceiving investors to perpetuate their wrongdoing and line their pockets with ill-gotten gains,” said Kelly L. Gibson, Associate Regional Director of the SEC’s Philadelphia Regional Office. “Investors should be warned that low-risk, high-return investments that never lose should be a red flag.”
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland today announced criminal charges against Merrill, Ledford, and Jezierski.
The SEC’s complaint, filed on Sept. 13 in federal district court in Maryland, charges Merrill, Ledford, and Jezierski, along with their entities, Global Credit Recovery, LLC, Delmarva Capital, LLC, Rhino Capital Holdings, LLC, Rhino Capital Group, LLC, DeVille Asset Management LTD, and Riverwalk Financial Corporation, with violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The court granted the SEC’s request for an asset freeze, temporary restraining order, and the appointment of a receiver. The SEC seeks disgorgement of allegedly ill-gotten gains and prejudgment interest, and financial penalties against the defendants.
The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted by Norman P. Ostrove, Dustin E. Ruta, and Scott A. Thompson in the Philadelphia Regional Office and supervised by Ms. Gibson. The SEC’s litigation is being led by Julia C. Green, Mark R. Sylvester, and Jennifer C. Barry. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” – Source
That SEC case is still ongoing. Here is the last Receiver Report.
According to the State of Texas, Riverwalk Debt Solutions, Inc. is located at 2801 Paramount Blvd., Amarillo, TX 79109 and the registered agent is Ledford and Associates, PLLC.
The State of Texas also says Jay B. Ledford is the chief exec and Hillary R. Badrow is the “chief fina.”
From the Receiver Statu Report shown above, it appears the Receiver is responsible for operating Riverwalk Debt Solutions. The Status Report says: “Riverwalk Debt provides a fee-based service to assist borrowers by providing financial solutions for student loans, with a focus on federal student loan consolidation and federal student loan forgiveness programs. Riverwalk Credit provides a fee-based credit repair organization that reviews and analyzes its clients’ credit profiles and then disputes/repairs inaccurate items. As outlined in the Prior Reports, Riverwalk Debt and Riverwalk Credit are both essentially operating at a startup level.
Throughout the Applicable Period, the Receiver team has worked closely with the Director of Operations and other members of the Riverwalk management team to monitor operating results and consider additional cost-savings measures, if available.” – Source
So if that is true then a court-appointed receiver in the SEC case has supervision for operating Riverwalk Debt Solutions that is allegedly related to that disturbing sales call for student loan services. The irony.
In closing, the Receiver report does say, “The Receivership Estate includes three ongoing business operations in Texas: (i) DeVille Asset Management Ltd. (“DeVille”); (ii) Riverwalk Credit Solutions, Inc. (“Riverwalk Credit”); and (iii) Riverwalk Debt Solutions, Inc. (“Riverwalk Debt”). The Receiver continues to operate these businesses and investigate the proper means to monetize their value for the benefit of the Receivership Estate.”