DebtPro 123 LLC, based in Irvine, Calif. billed consumers up to $10,000 after claiming it would settle consumers' debts, repair their credit in three years or less and provide legal advice, according to Federal Trade Commission charges announced Tuesday.
Bryan Taylor and three other people, along with DebtPro 123 and five other companies, marketed debt relief services through telemarketing calls, online ads and promotional videos, according to the FTC. The operation promised that consumers could "become debt free and enjoy financial independence" in as little as 18 months.
The defendants claimed their legal department would "leverage their existing relationships with all of the major creditors to negotiate the best possible resolution" and that consumers could reduce the amount they owed by 30% to 70%.
The FTC alleged that the defendants told consumers to stop paying and communicating with their creditors.
As a result, debts increased and many people lost their homes, had their wages garnished, lost their retirement savings or filed for bankruptcy, according to the complaint. While the defendants promised to refund unsatisfied customers, they rarely did, FTC officials said.
"These defendants said they would get consumers out of debt, but instead they bilked them out of thousands of dollars, often leaving them worse off than they were before," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Credit Repair Organizations Act by providing their affiliate marketing companies with deceptive materials to deceive consumers and by collecting an advance fee for their bogus debt relief services.
The defendants could not be immediately reached Tuesday for comment.