Student loan debt relief scammer Brandon Frere and his companies, including Ameritech Financial, have entered into an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to settle charges they misled approximately 40,000 consumers about lowering their student loan debt.
According to the FTC’s 2018 complaint, Brandon Frere and his companies sent personalized mail to consumers that falsely claimed they were eligible for federal programs that would permanently reduce their monthly debt payments to a fixed low amount or result in total loan forgiveness.
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The FTC alleged that Frere and his companies charged up to $800 in illegal up-front fees to enroll consumers in a federal loan assistance program. They also charged consumers $100-$1,200 advance fee for enrollment in a “financial education” program, followed by ongoing $49-$99 monthly membership fees for the life of the loan, which typically is 10-25 years.
The order bans Frere and his companies from providing debt relief services and prohibits them from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
In December 2018, the Department of Justice filed a criminal complaint against Frere and his companies. In December 2019, Frere pleaded guilty to two counts of wire and mail fraud, and agreed to forfeit funds. In July 2020, a U.S. district court judge sentenced Frere to 42 months in prison and required him to read all victim impact statements submitted to the court. The judge will hold a restitution hearing on December 18.
The defendants are Ameritech Financial, also doing business as American Financial Benefits Center; AFB and AF Student Services; Financial Education Benefits Center; and Frere.
The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 4-0-1, with Commissioner Christine S. Wilson recorded as not participating. The FTC filed the order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and it was entered by the Court on October 29, 2020.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions, etc. have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.