A debt settlement company and its owner on Tuesday pleaded guilty in Manhattan, N.Y. federal court to conspiracy charges of mail and wire fraud.
Michael Levitis and his company, Mission Settlement Agency, entered the pleas less than a year after prosecutors announced charges for a scheme they said victimized more than 1,200 people nationwide from 2009 to 2013. The case is the first criminal case referred to U.S. prosecutors by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Prosecutors accused Mission of promoting its ability to help customers reduce their credit card and other debt. Instead, the company charged excessive fees while failing to aid its clients.
Levitis and Mission Settlement both agreed to forfeit $2.2 million as part of the plea agreement. Levitis faces up to 10 years in prison, while the company could be fined an additional $4.39 million.
Four other former Mission employees previously pleaded guilty; charges against a fifth are pending.
Levitis, a suspended lawyer, was previously sentenced in August 2011 to three years of probation and fined $15,000 for lying to federal agents during an investigation into former New York State Senator Carl Kruger, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2011.
Levitis and three Mission Settlement employees were arrested in May 2013 and charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy in what prosecutors at the time called a four-year criminal scheme that bilked customers of money funneled to pay expenses at a nightclub, luxury car leases and credit card bills.
On Tuesday, Levitis, 37, told U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe, that he wanted to take responsibility for his actions.
His mother, Eva Levitis, who was Mission Settlement's president, entered a guilty plea on behalf of the company. She was not criminally charged.
The case is U.S. v. Mission Settlement Agency, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-cr-j00327.