In the first criminal referral from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. is coming out swinging against a debt-settlement company in a new indictment. The firm has been charged with defrauding more than 1,200 people struggling with credit-card debt, with prosecutors saying the defendants “systematically exploited and defrauded” people around the U.S.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office announced the charges today, reports Bloomberg News, listing Mission Settlement agency and four employees as defendants.
“Preying upon the financial desperation of individuals struggling to pay their credit card debts, the defendants falsely and fraudulently tricked over a thousand such individuals into becoming Mission’s customer with significant — but false — assurances about Mission’s ability to help,” according to the indictment.
This is the first criminal referral from the CFPB since its creation in 2011. According to the indictment, Mission and its employees lied about fees and took money from customers who thought those funds would be used to pay off their creditors. But instead, say the charges, the company either didn’t lift a finger or did very little to help those customers out of debt.
Instead, the indictment says Mission’s manager spent the money to pay for expenses of a nightclub he was involved in, leased a couple of fancy cars and, in a stroke of irony, paid off his mom’s credit-card bills.