Today the Federal Trade Commission announced actions against a number of debt relief companies. Ironically, one was BlackRock Professional Corporation that I wrote about last week, here. Another was Jackson Hunter Morris & Knight, which we’ve written about here. Also named in the action are Nelson Gamble & Associates, which we’ve written about here.
The FTC complaint and Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) filed today are definitive action against the companies for alleged violations of the telemarketing sales rule and debt relief sales.
The complaint is brutal attack against advanced fee debt settlement services that claim to have a direct relationship with attorneys. “Defendants tout their experience to further their claim that they will reduce consumers’ debt, including by claiming to be a law firm or to have lawyers on staff.”
In numerous instances, Defendants’ representatives tell consumers that Defendants are a law fIrm or have attorneys on staff who will be working with consumers. – Source
“Giving people false hope by promising to reduce their debt is bad enough. But stealing their money by debiting their bank accounts without their permission is beyond the pale,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “Consumers can count on the FTC and state Attorneys General to find the bad actors and stop them from doing further harm.”
According to the FTC’s complaint against Jeremy R. Nelson and four companies he controlled, Nelson Gamble & Associates LLP, Jackson Hunter Morris & Knight LLC, BlackRock Professional Corporation, and Mekhia Capital LLC, the defendants marketed and sold debt relief services via telemarketing and websites. They promised to settle consumers’ debts for substantially less than they owed and said lawyers would provide the services. One website cited in the complaint stated, “Nelson Gamble works with the utmost diligence to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients, with over $90 million of debt settled in the past 12 months – and over $800 million since our inception . . . ,” noting that it employs “proven tactical methods to settle debt by 50% to 80% of your total outstanding balances. . . . Typically, you can be free from debt in three years or less.”
According to the complaint, the defendants were not lawyers, as they claimed; they settled few, if any, debts for customers; and some consumers who did not order their services found that the defendants had debited money from their bank accounts.
The FTC charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by making false and deceptive claims and by causing consumers’ bank accounts to be debited without their express, informed consent. They also allegedly violated the TSR by charging advance fees for debt relief services, calling phone numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, calling consumers who had told them not to call, failing to transmit caller identification to consumers’ caller ID service, delivering prerecorded messages without consumers’ prior written consent, repeatedly calling consumers to annoy them, and delivering prerecorded messages that failed to identify the seller, the call’s purpose, and the product or service. In addition, the defendants allegedly violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and Regulation E by debiting consumers’ bank accounts on a recurring basis without their written authorization, and without providing consumers with a copy of the authorization.
The TRO signed by the judge says, “There is good cause to believe that Defendants Nelson Gamble & Associates, LLC (also d/b/a Nelson Gamble & Associates, P.C., and Nelson Parker Gamble & Banks, LLP), Jackson Hunter Morris & Knight LLP, BlackRock Professional Corporation, Mekhia Capital LLC, and Jeremy R. Nelson, have engaged and are likely to continue to engage in acts or practices that violate Section Sea) of the FTC Act, IS U.S.C. § 4S(a); the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”).” The TRO further puts a freeze on the Defendants bank accounts, making transfers from a consumer’s account safe guards in place. The Defendants are also, “…temporarily restrained and enjoined from requesting or accepting payment of any fee or consideration in advance of performing each and every debt relief product or service that Defendants contracted to perform or represented would be performed.”
In addition the following websites will be taken down. “nelsongamble.com, stopmodfraud.com, fhagateway.com, platinumfha.com, myfreddiemac.com, myfanniemae.com, cmbmortgagecorp.com, closeyourhomeloan.com, drlgpc.com, drlgpa.com, nelsongamble.org, nelsongamble.net, nelsongamble.info, checkmatedebt.info, checkmatedebt.org, checkmatedebt.com, checkmatedebtsolutions.com, checkmatedebt.net, jhmklaw.com, jhmklaw.org, jhmklaw.net, mekhiacapital.com, jhmkllp.com, jhmkllp.net, debtsettlementscam.org, blackrockmortgage.com, blackrockpc.com, blackrockllp.com, blackrocklaw.com, blackrocklawgroup.com, and blackrocklaw.net”
In addition all assets of Checkmate Debt Solutions, Inc., Debt Relief Law Group PC, Lexxani Insurance Services Inc., CMB Mortgage Corporation, J. Nelson Financial Enterprises Inc. (d/b/a Venture Capital Investments), and the Nelson Family Trust will be frozen. – Source
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