Operators Of Credit Repair Business Masquerading As The FTC Must Return $2.4M To Consumers

Three months after regulators shut down a credit repair company catering mainly to Spanish-speaking consumers for falsely claiming to have a close relationship with the federal government – calling itself “FTC Credit Solutions” – and bilking thousands of dollars from individual consumers with empty promises of boosting their credit scores, the real Federal Trade Commission announced it has reached a settlement that will result in the return of $2.4 million to victims of the scam.

The FTC announced today that it had settled an earlier complaint against FTC Credit Solutions and its operators – including Guillermo Leyes, Jimena Perez, Fermin Campos and Maria Bernal – banning the individuals from selling or advertising credit repair services to consumers and from deceiving consumers about any good or service they are selling.

According to the original complaint [PDF], the operation deceived consumers in advertisements and phone calls by claiming to be affiliated with or licensed by the FTC, falsely promising that they could remove negative information from consumers’ credit reports, and guaranteeing consumers a credit score of 700 or above within six months or less.

In some instances, Leyes, the marketing director for the company, promoted the services on the radio and in videos posted on the internet.

The pitches, which were presented in Spanish, feature Leyes boasting about his experience in credit solutions.

“Fourteen years working in banking tells you that I can help you. I was the first to come here on the radio, bringing you what is called credit restructuring. And what many ask, how are we going to remove a bankruptcy? This is impossible. How are you going to remove it? They have had to hold their tongues and say, well, we don’t know how he does it. And I am not going to tell them either. Because to do it I have not rested my brain, to do it I studied and to do it I have a license direct[ly] from the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission.”

Subsequent calls placed to the company by FTC investigators posing as consumers uncovered instances in which employees of the company routinely said the operation “works under the Federal Trade Commission, which is a law that was signed by the President in 2010.”

Employees also falsely promised that the company could “delete” and “get [the investigator] a pardon” for $19,000 in debt.

In addition to making false statements about an affiliation with the Commission, the FTC alleges that the company unlawfully charged consumers fees in advance of providing the promised credit repair service. The company was also found to have sent false information to major credit bureaus.

Under the proposed settlements [PDF] [PDF], all four defendants are subject to a monetary judgment of $2.4 million. While Leyes is responsible for the full amount, those belonging to Perez, Campos and Bernal are partially suspended due to their inability to pay, the FTC states.

The operators are also barred from selling or advertising credit repair services to consumers and from deceiving consumers about any good or service they are selling, and from selling or otherwise benefitting from customers’ personal information.