I have been doing a number of reviews of companies in the debt settlement industry lately and one thing has become very clear, the industry seems to be rife with some really bad people.
Now nobody wears a tag around their neck that says “I’m in the Mob” and there is no Mobbook to look at but what is very clear is that if you just use some clues you come up with some interesting observations.
Not to be too stereotypical but several of these debt settlement company networks trace back to all italian names from New Jersey and New York. That alone is not a sign of organized crime, but then you throw in the construction companies involved and what borders on just plain illegal profiteering, throw in some jail time for some and there you have it, a mess that smells awful fishy. Here’s a good example of one of these cases I’m talking about. Here is the sentencing from that case.
If the people in question are not “made” members, they are certainly intimate networks of flat out opportunists. The backgrounds of some of people behind these companies comes from selling junk stocks, getting closed down and moving into debt settlement. Just look at the story behind National Debt Defenders Network and the regulatory actions against Stuart Rubens and Peter Kirschner.
Some have one debt settlement company closed down and just popup another one with a new name. Their hands are in a number of debt settlement companies, all operating simultaneously and when one goes down, the rest remain.
I’ve even heard the comment from inside the industry that actually settling the debt isn’t the focus, it’s get the fee and “so what, the consumer is going to go bankrupt anyway.”
Some companies I’ve reviewed lately really concern me that their DNA seems to be about crime. In a recent story I wrote that included the former Ameridebt President Andris Pukke who is one of the largest scammers in the credit counseling world and served jail time. His wife Pamela Pukke was involved and brother Eriks Pukke was too. Eriks is now serving 84 months in jail over his role at Ameridebt, DebtWorks and Debticated. Janis Pukke and Stella Storm, the father and mother of Andris and Eriks, also participated in the concealing of funds and assets. Aimee Pukke, Eriks wife, was also convicted in the Debticated Consumer Counseling, Inc. mess. It’s a real family affair. It’s odd.
Add on top of that the number of their family friends, local buddies, and fake names that participated in their network of crime and you’ve got a great novel for a movie. And they are not the only group like that operating inside the debt settlement industry today.
Then we have another case of a debt settlement company that gets in trouble and moves from Connecticut to Texas and the old front man vanishes and some new kid is pushed out front, but the old guy, he’s still involved.
If you look at the debt settlement industry as a place to make millions of dollars off of people quickly, it’s the place to go. All you need to do is promise the moon, tell people they will only have to pay a fraction of what they owe, take all of your fee up-front in the first year or so, and then when the heat gets too hot, dump the company, abandon the consumers and do it all again under a different name. This stuff is happening right now, today.
I also get concerned when I see the tremendous amount of obfuscation and a vast network of interconnected companies just to run a debt settlement company. It might not be evidence of organized crime but it sure seems like a lot of intent to hide things.
Bottom line, the debt settlement industry is grossly corrupt and the number one motive is not helping people it is profit. They are no better than the very creditors they pitch against.
I guarantee you, if the Federal Trade Commission does finally come out with rules limiting the amount of upfront fee debt settlement companies can charge most of the players in this industry will all but vanish and go sell herbal supplements or something else. In the meantime, consumers should not believe one word from the debt settlement industry or trade association of the debt settlement industry.