Can I Settle My Debt Before the Court Date?


Dear Steve,

I am being sued for a credit card debt for $602.30. It was bought by a couple of groups and finally, LVNV owns it and they went to Ga Magistrate court.

I did reply basically saying I could not verify so I have a court date in about 10 days.

They did have a copy of the statements and documents showing the chain of custody and ownership, etc. About 29 pages. The only thing I do not see if the terms of the card, just all the statements and custody ownership. I do believe this is my debt, however.

I want to avoid a judgment in court to show up on my credit, I have been doing a lot to make it much better now.

I do not mind paying the debt off but is there a way I can reach out and make an offer to settle?

I was also wondering would they show up in court for a $600.00 debt, it seems like it would cost them more to have an attorney even if they paid a small fraction of the debt to buy it.

Should I just go to court and see if they show or offer to settle there before the case? Any advice or recommendations would be appreciated.

Great site and very helpful by the way.



Dear Bob,

The fact they filed the suit is already going to appear on your credit report.

You should absolutely contact the attorney as soon as possible and make an offer to settle. There is no need to wait to do that.

Forget trying to figure out the logic for suing you on a small balance. Accounts just get dumped in the hopper and accounts just get dumped in the hopper for action. It’s not logic. Just process.

If they do agree to the settlement, keep in mind the settlement will appear on your credit report and you should get some documentation of the settlement agreement and never lose that document. You may need it in the future to show that your less than full balance payment was for full satisfaction of the debt.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Credit Mistakes That Could be Costing You Money

Managing your credit can sometimes seem like a lot of work, but it’s essential. Your credit history plays a big role in your financial life. Not only does it weigh heavily in determining the loan terms and interest rates you’re offered, but it can also impact other parts of your life, like whether you get a job, an apartment, or a security clearance. When it comes to credit, you may unknowingly be making mistakes that could cost you money in the long run.

Take a look at some of the common credit mistakes to make sure you avoid these financial pitfalls. 

Credit mistake: Occasionally paying your bills late

It may not seem like a big deal to make a late payment here or there, but since your payment history is a main driver of your credit score, it could hurt your overall financial health. Make sure to pay your bills on-time, every time. Consider setting up automatic payments, or electronic reminders, to make sure your payments are on time.

Credit mistake: Making only the minimum payment each month

If possible, pay off your credit card bill in full each month. The higher the balance you carry from month to month, the more interest you pay, and that’s money you could be using for other things, including paying off the debt. Unless your financial situation leaves you no choice but to only pay the minimum, pay your entire balance each month or as much of the balance as you can, before the payment due date, to avoid or minimize interest charges.

Credit mistake: Taking a loan offer without comparing it to others

Shopping for credit is a great way to make sure you’re getting the best possible offer. Better loan terms can save you money. Even a small difference between interest rate offers can mean major savings in the long run. Check out more advice on shopping for credit cards, auto loans, or home mortgage loans.

Credit mistake: Not getting your free annual credit reports

Your free credit reports give you a snapshot of your credit history, including your open lines of credit, whether you’ve made your payments on time, and the status of your credit accounts. You should review your credit reports regularly to make sure the information is correct. Errors on your credit reports can hurt your score. This could mean a higher interest rate and less money in your pocket – so it’s important to check your credit reports and dispute any errors well before you apply for a loan. Each of the three major credit reporting companies gives you a free credit report every 12 months if you request it. You can request a copy from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian at .

Credit mistake: Not planning or discussing credit with loved ones

Sharing financial information and responsibility with your spouse is important for your joint financial well-being. Discuss credit goals so you can work towards them together. Individual financial decisions often affect family financial matters, so it’s important to be on the same page. Learning about each other’s financial behaviors, debt levels, and spending habits can help minimize conflicts and confusion over financial decisions. Being prepared and well-informed will help you overcome any setbacks or unexpected financial crises that may arise.

Credit mistake: Not taking advantage of seeing your credit scores for free

Many financial companies have begun to offer free credit scores to their customers. Remember, you have more than one credit score. It’s normal for your credit scores to vary based on the time it was calculated and the formula used. Checking your credit scores regularly helps to quickly identify any credit issues you may need to address and track how your financial decisions affect your scores. Download this list of companies that provide free credit scores to learn where you can get your score for free.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

My Student Loans Left on a Train From Chicago But When Will They Arrive in St. Louis?


Dear Steve,

So, in 2016 I took out my first student loan! Only thing is, I was also unable to have my own bank account because I was “unable to sort my money the right way”. My stepmother at the time did a jointed bank account but when I protested to have my own account, they just repeated that I’m unfit to have my own account. They did the same thing with my birth certificate so I ordered a new one until she gave it back last year.

Long story short is that I took out 3 loans. 2 of those were me alone, so I had full control of the money. The other 2 were given to my stepmother and also my father.

I had no control over my loan money and last March I was forced to leave because I asked my brother for money to help me stay there just a bit longer.

I have 2k in debt and I have no help. I’m not sure what to do or who to call for it, so it’s climbing in interest. It has made me never want to go back to college again especially since I didn’t want debt in the first place but I was forced to go to college.

Can I get some kind of mandated help from my father and previous stepmother so that I’m not stuck with this giant bill alone?



Dear Jasmine,

I don’t even know where to start. My first impression is there is some conflict between what responsibilities your family thinks you can handle and what you want to deal with yourself.

My general impression from your question is you went to college with some loans and you needed more money to stay in school but your brother said no.

Where did you go to school? What kind of loans do you have? Are they federal or private student loans?

How many total loans do you have? You say, “Long story short is that I took out 3 loans. 2 of those were me alone, so I had full control of the money. The other 2 were given to my stepmother and also my father.” Do you have three loans or five?

If you took out loans, they are your personal responsibility. If someone else took out a loan then that is their responsibility.

Please post your responses to my questions in the comment section below and help me to fully understand your situation so I can point you in the right direction.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Protect Yourself Against Medicare Scams

Still getting calls from people claiming to be from Medicare, asking for money or personal information? Watch this video about how you can protect yourself from Medicare scams: 

Medicare Scams sound like this

The FTC worked with AARP to create a series of videos about imposter scams – including Medicare scams, IRS imposters and robocalls. While the videos are aimed at older Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the tips apply to everyone. For the next three Fridays, we’ll highlight these videos.

This week, you’ll learn about these calls that pretend to be from Medicare. The video will help you recognize the scammers who ask for your Medicare number so you can get a back or neck brace. Or who say they need your information or money so you can get a new Medicare card. And you’ll hear from an FTC expert about how to avoid these scams:

  • Hang up. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information to get your new card or new benefits, that’s a scam.
  • Don’t give personal information to a caller claiming to be from Medicare. You can’t trust caller id. These calls can be spoofed so they look like they’re coming from Medicare even when they’re not. Before you give any personal information, initiate your own call to Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE.
  • Report the call. Report Medicare imposters at 1-800-MEDICARE and The more we hear from you, the more we can help fight scams.

For more information about stopping imposter scams, visit And to learn about how to stop unwanted calls, including using call blocking technology, go to

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Lumber Liquidators Enters into Corporate Resolution for Securities Fraud and Agrees to Pay $33 Million Penalty

Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc. (Lumber Liquidators) has agreed to pay a total penalty of $33 million for filing a materially false and misleading statement to investors regarding the sale of its laminate flooring from China to its customers in the United States.

Lumber Liquidators, a public corporation headquartered in Toano, Virginia, and one of the largest retailers of flooring products in the United States, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in connection with a criminal information filed today in the Eastern District of Virginia charging the company with securities fraud.  The case was primarily focused on the fact that Lumber Liquidators knowingly filed a false and misleading statement to investors broadly denying the allegations featured in a March 2015 episode of 60 Minutes, and affirming that the company complied with California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Washington, D.C. Field Office and Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Washington Division, made the announcement.

“Lumber Liquidators lied to investors and to the public about its compliance with formaldehyde regulations for the flooring it sold – all to protect its stock price,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “False and misleading financial reports undermine the integrity of our securities markets and harm investors.  The Department and our law enforcement partners are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that those who commit securities fraud are held accountable.”

“This resolution holds Lumber Liquidators accountable for misleading the investing public,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger.  “It also recognizes that the company has cooperated with the government’s investigation, completely replaced its senior executive team, and installed experienced executives who have displayed a commitment to building an ethical corporate culture.  We will continue to ensure that market participants can trust information communicated by public companies when making investment decisions.  My thanks to our prosecutorial team and our investigative partners for their outstanding work on this case.” 

“This penalty should serve as a warning to other corporations who seek to mislead investors,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Archey.  “FBI Richmond is grateful for the commitment to this case of its partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Justice Department’s Fraud Section, the IRS Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.”

“Lumber Liquidators knowingly deceived the shareholders they were entrusted to serve,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Jackson.  “IRS-CI will continue to work diligently with our federal law enforcement partners to ensure that the punishment for such crimes matches the seriousness of the offense.”

“Those seeking to maximize profits while misleading investors should expect to pay a heavy price,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Rendina.  “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has investigated these kind of deceptive practices for years to protect investors and the integrity of the market place.  Postal Inspectors work tirelessly to identify and hold accountable any company who uses the U.S. mail to defraud American citizens.”

According to court documents filed as part of the DPA, Lumber Liquidators was subject to various laws that regulated the chemicals used in wood products, including laminate flooring.  Specifically, CARB enforced limits on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products.  In September 2013, CARB announced that it intended to use deconstructive testing to determine whether finished flooring products contained CARB compliant cores.  In 2013 and 2014, CARB informed Lumber Liquidators that flooring samples collected from its California stores failed deconstructive testing for formaldehyde emissions.  Lumber Liquidators’ own deconstructive tests of the same products yielded similar results.

Also in 2014, foreign and domestic flooring suppliers alerted Lumber Liquidators of CARB compliance concerns related to the company’s Chinese laminate products.  In February 2014, Lumber Liquidators’ Chinese laminate suppliers requested a price increase citing concerns about the increased cost of CARB compliant cores and their ability to pass deconstructive testing for formaldehyde emissions.  Approximately one month later, a U.S. laminate supplier informed Lumber Liquidators that it tested a Chinese laminate sample purchased from one of Lumber Liquidators’ stores in the United States and that the sample emitted high levels of formaldehyde.  Lumber Liquidators took only limited steps to determine the validity of the suppliers’ concerns, and instead sought to generate support for its position that deconstructive testing was not a valid test method, the company admitted.

To that end, Lumber Liquidators visited two Chinese laminate suppliers in August 2014 to collect and test samples.  While collecting samples from Supplier A, a then-Lumber Liquidators employee noticed a pallet of laminate flooring that factory workers indicated was Lumber Liquidators’ product, but the label on the pallet indicated that it contained non-CARB compliant cores.  The former employee took samples from this suspect pallet for testing along with other samples manufactured in his and other employees’ presence.  Laboratory A later provided Lumber Liquidators with test results that undermined the company’s criticisms of deconstructive testing.  All but one of the products manufactured in front of the Lumber Liquidators employees passed deconstructive testing.  But the samples from the suspect pallet, manufactured before employees arrived, failed deconstructive testing.

Lumber Liquidators representatives again visited Supplier A in September 2014 and January 2015.  Following these visits, Lumber Liquidators concluded that Supplier A had numerous recordkeeping anomalies, refused to implement CARB-related corrective action requests made by the company, and could not reliably demonstrate that its laminate flooring contained CARB compliant cores.  Accordingly, in January 2015, the company’s former senior management team decided to discontinue its relationship with Supplier A due to CARB compliance concerns.  Nevertheless, that same day, Lumber Liquidators admitted it ordered more laminate flooring from Supplier A.

In Fall 2014, Lumber Liquidators learned that the CBS news program, 60 Minutes, also retained Laboratory A to conduct deconstructive testing of Lumber Liquidators’ products.  Shortly thereafter, Laboratory A secretly notified Lumber Liquidators that the deconstructive tests commissioned by 60 Minutes yielded significant test failures.  The lab then allowed a former Lumber Liquidators employee to review and take pictures of these test results.  In December 2014, the lab owner told former Lumber Liquidators employees that a high deconstructive test failure was a strong indicator that the product was not CARB compliant, the company admitted. 

On Feb. 25, 2015, Lumber Liquidators learned that 60 Minutes obtained undercover videos from three of its Chinese laminate suppliers, including Supplier A, in which the suppliers admitted that the laminates they made for Lumber Liquidators were not CARB compliant.  Lumber Liquidators’ former senior management team retained outside counsel from Law Firm B to interview the suppliers in the undercover videos.  On Feb. 28, 2015, Law Firm B informed former Lumber Liquidators executives that it recorded one person from each of the three factories in the undercover videos saying that the product they sold Lumber Liquidators was CARB compliant.  Nevertheless, Law Firm B told these former executives that they had limited confidence in the suppliers’ statements because, among other things, a former Lumber Liquidators inspector alleged that suppliers offered bribes to him and other company employees, the company admitted.   

On March 1, 2015, 60 Minutes aired a segment alleging that laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators in the United States did not meet CARB emission standards for formaldehyde.  The episode featured the undercover videos and test results previously shown to Lumber Liquidators.

The next morning, March 2, 2015, the New York Stock Exchange halted trading of the company’s stock, with the expectation that Lumber Liquidators intended to issue a statement responding to the 60 Minutes episode.  Later that morning, Lumber Liquidators, through its employees, knowingly filed a false and misleading Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Form 8-K broadly denying the allegations in the 60 Minutes episode and affirming Lumber Liquidators complied with CARB regulations, the company admitted.  Specifically, Lumber Liquidators omitted material facts from investors, including CARB’s investigation of the company’s Chinese laminate products; its own deconstructive test results; the company’s decision to discontinue sourcing from Supplier A due to CARB compliance concerns; and evidence that undermined the suppliers’ statements that all products provided to Lumber Liquidators were CARB compliant.

Pursuant to its agreement with the Department of Justice, Lumber Liquidators agreed to pay a total criminal penalty of $33 million to the United States, including a criminal fine of approximately $19 million, and approximately $14 million in forfeiture.  This amount represents the company’s net profits from the sale of 100 percent of its Chinese laminate from approximately Jan. 16, 2015 through May 7, 2015.

Lumber Liquidators also agreed to implement rigorous internal controls and cooperate fully with the Department’s ongoing investigation, including its investigation of individuals.  Under the DPA, prosecution of the company for securities fraud will be deferred for an initial period of three years to allow Lumber Liquidators to demonstrate good conduct.

The SEC announced a separate settlement with Lumber Liquidators in connection with related, parallel proceedings.  Under the terms of its resolution with the SEC, Lumber Liquidators agreed to a total of $6,097,298.42 in disgorgement of profits and prejudgment interest.  The Department of Justice agreed to credit the amount paid to the SEC in disgorgement as part of its agreement.  Thus, the combined total amount of criminal and regulatory penalties paid by Lumber Liquidators will be $33 million.

This penalty reflects the nature and seriousness of the conduct, as well as Lumber Liquidators’ ongoing cooperation with the United States and the company’s extensive efforts at remediation.  Among other remedial efforts, Lumber Liquidators suspended the sale of all laminate flooring from China in May 2015; offered consumers in-home testing for already installed flooring; and implemented new policies and procedures regarding compliance with CARB emission standards and other environmental regulations, sourcing of flooring products, financial reporting and internal controls.  The employees involved in wrongdoing either were terminated or resigned from Lumber Liquidators, and the company replaced its executive management team with experienced executives who have displayed a commitment to building an ethical corporate culture.

This article by the Department of Justice was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

What Happens to My Debts When I Die?

The death of a loved one is always a difficult situation for anyone to go through. However, what many people do not understand is that the difficulties of losing a loved one can become financially hard beyond the funeral expenses. This is especially true when it comes to the debt of the deceased.

Many of Us Leave Behind Debt

According to the United States Federal Reserve, in 2017 outstanding consumer credit hit a total of 3,832.7 billion dollars. That’s an increase of 3% from the prior year. According to Christine DiGangi from CBS News, “73 percent of consumers had outstanding debt when they were reported as dead…[carrying] an average total balance of $61,554”.

With this substantial debt looming over loved ones and their families, it becomes difficult to think about what will happen to this debt when we die. Will our loved ones be left owing the money? We question whether or not they will be able to pay off our debt, or even if they will have to deal with the harassment calls from collection agencies. However, what many of us don’t know, is the government has set forth regulations which, in most cases, will keep our loved ones safe when we die.

How the Deceased’s Debts Get Paid

According to the Federal Trade Commission, in most cases, the living family members are not obligated to pay on the debts of their deceased loved ones. Instead, unless otherwise stated in the deceased family member’s will, the assets of the deceased are put into an estate. Once the estate is created and all assets are liquidated into the account, those monies are used to pay off all outstanding debt. Afterwards, any money remaining are given to the heirs of the deceased.

When the Deceased’s Family Members Are Responsible for the Debt

There are numerous occasions, however, when there are not enough funds in the estate account to cover the outstanding debt of the deceased. In these cases, the outstanding debt will go unpaid. The only time that this debt must be paid by a surviving loved one, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is if the following is true:

  • The loved one is a co-signer of the debt obligation.
  • The loved one lives in a community property state.
  • The loved one is the spouse of the deceased and lives in a state where the spouse is required to pay on particular types of debt owned by the deceased.
  • The loved one is legally responsible for the estate and handles the estate against the state probate laws.

Settling an Estate that Has Outstanding Debt

The death of a loved one can come with numerous questions and legal ramifications. If the individuals responsible for the estate are unsure what to do, it is in the best interest of the loved ones to hire a lawyer to help them through the process of creating an estate and organizing the debt of the deceased.

Dealing with Debt Collectors of a Deceased Loved One’s Debt

While there may be only a few instances where loved ones will be responsible for the debts of the deceased, there is always a possibility of the loved ones getting phone calls from collection agencies. However, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it is against the law for collection agencies to conduct abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to try to collect debt of the deceased. Instead, the collection agencies may call and discuss the debts in a professional manner with the deceased’s spouse, executor, administrator, or any other individual authorized to pay the outstanding debt. In any other case, the only reason a collector may speak with anyone close to the deceased would be to gather information to contact those authorized to pay on the debt.

It can be a stressful situation to worry about what will happen with our family and outstanding debt after we die. However, due to regulations and standards set by the United States government, there is no need for us to worry about what our loved ones will do, as they will be protected from having to pay on debt or from the harassment of the collection agencies.

This article by Taylor Ivey first appeared on The Dollar Stretcher and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Car Loan: How Does It Work?

Ownership of a car is not something that is only limited to the necessity of transportation. A car also acts as a symbol of social status for a person, and it takes a lot of efforts to find the perfect car for an individual. You have found the car that you need to purchase and are ready to purchase it at the first chance you get!

But are you prepared to pay the total price of the car up front? This question may be a trouble for many, but on the other hand, you have a wide range of options, especially in terms of car financing. Good news, isn’t it? However, you have to brush up information on all the basics to find a deal tailored to your needs.

After all, you don’t want to be paying a fortune as the interest on the loan you availed for your car, do you? Let us dive into the details of car loans and the basics associated with it alongside essential guidance for securing car loans. The discussion outlined below would also point out towards specific details of car finance that might escape your attention during research and planning for a loan.

Start from the base

Do not worry if you do not have the required amount of finances to purchase a car by paying for it upfront. Many people share the same fate as yours. An auto loan is nothing different than a personal loan only with the difference that it can be used only for purchasing an automobile.

Lenders provide car loans on the assurance of the vehicle as collateral for providing the loan. If the borrower clears the debt within the specified period the ownership of the vehicle is transferred to them. On the contrary, failure to repay the loan within the specified period entitles the lender to take possession of the vehicle and sell it off to recover their loan.

Notable elements in a car loan

Now that we know about the basic way in which an auto loan works, it would be reasonable to move on towards the primary components associated with a car loan. The four essential factors to be taken into account in the case of a car loan include the loan cost, down payment, interest rate, and the terms and conditions.

The loan cost or loan amount refers to the principal amount that you get with car finance. This amount could be equal to the value of the car or less than that depending on the amount of down payment made for the car. The annual percentage rate is the specific rate which is charged by the lender on the loan amount borrowed by you. The percentage of interest is expressed for some time of one year, and so it is referred to the annual percentage rate (APR).

If you have a certain amount of cash saved already for purchasing a car, then you can reduce the loan amount. How? Down Payment is the upfront cash payment that has to be made to the borrower when purchasing the vehicle. The down payment is presented as a share of the total price of the vehicle. The down payment is not a binding legal requirement for car finance, but all lenders require down payments.

The terms and conditions established in the car loan generally refer to the various factors included alongside the loan. These factors include the term of the loan expressed in years or months, terms of resale and loan payoff, maintenance requirements, conditions for loan defaulting and repossession as well as the insurance and registration precedents and conditions related to theft or accident.

Car title loans also require borrowers to pay a specific amount of monthly payment according to the principal amount and interest for the loan. Make a clear estimate of the monthly payments to make for the loan to get a precise impression of the amount that you will be paying for the car.

Additional information you might miss out!

You must be feeling quite knowledgeable about car loans, don’t you? But there is more to the domain of car loans than it seems on the surface!

Never forget the impact of your credit score on the ability to avail auto loan at lower interest rates. You must be thinking – I have given my vehicle as collateral for the loan, how does my credit score matter? Your credit score is important to lenders as they are not always up for the complicated proceedings associated with repossession and selling the vehicle for loan recovery.

It is also important to note that higher credit scores would imply lower credit risk thereby prompting lenders to give the best interest rates of borrowers. Borrowers with low credit score are most likely to default or claim bankruptcy, and hence lenders can charge higher interest rates. After all, they have to make sure of safety from substantial losses in the event of failure to repay the loans.

Going to the bank for car loans for bad credit, are you? It’s probably the best source to avail car title loans according to common perception! However, it is not always the best approach to secure financing for purchasing a new car. Dealerships also provide internal financing which can be considered as viable alternatives for securing car loans.

However, the most feasible route to secure loans for purchasing a car can be observed in online car loan networks. These networks could be used for comparing the interest rates offered by different lenders easily. You can always go for the best choice according to your requirements.

Getting an auto loan

Finally, let us outline the general steps to be followed for obtaining car title loans. This would help you know the right way to proceed to get an automobile loan.

· The first thing you need to do here is making a realistic budget for purchasing a car. It is reasonable to go for a car which is well within your budget, and you know the monthly payments for the car loan are also affordable for you. Do not jump into hasty conclusions when selecting a car loan and take note of the different factors such as down payment, the term of the loan and the rebates that can be availed on loan.

· As we have reflected earlier, credit score is a potent tool in your arsenal to secure car loans at lower interest rates. Make sure that your credit score is appealing to lenders for getting a loan with lower interest rates.

· Visit a bank or credit union for getting a pre-approval for your loan. This would make sure that you are aware of the limits of your budget in procuring a loan.

The final word of advice that can be presented for obtaining a car loan is to conduct thorough research and consult with financial experts before availing a car loan!

This article by Devender Singh Bora first appeared on Loans Geeks and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Father and Son Charged with Multi-Million Dollar Investment Fraud and Bank Fraud Scheme

Two men—father and son— were charged today with concocting a scheme that allegedly defrauded individual investors out of millions of dollars and obtained over $900,000 in loans from Alamerica Bank, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town of the Northern District of Alabama, FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. of the Birmingham Division and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Holloman of IRS Criminal Investigation.

Donald V. Watkins Sr., 70, of Atlanta, Georgia, and Donald V. Watkins Jr., 46, of Birmingham, Alabama, were charged in a 10-count indictment filed in the Northern District of Alabama with seven counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. 

According to the indictment, from 2007 until at least 2014, the defendants allegedly induced investors to pay millions of dollars into a bank account controlled by Donald Watkins Sr. by telling the investors that their money would be used for specific purposes related to the international growth of two companies associated with the defendants.  Instead of using the money for those purposes, the defendants redirected the funds for other uses, including the payment of personal tax obligations, personal loan payments, alimony, and clothing, the indictment alleges. 

For example, the indictment alleged one solicitation in which Donald Watkins Sr. represented that he needed an investor’s funds to pay for investment bankers and lawyers ahead of an anticipated business transaction, when, instead, the funds allegedly went toward the payment of unrelated expenses.  The indictment also alleges that, up until 2016, the defendants sent the investors stakeholder reports and other updates that purported to keep the investors apprised of developments related to the companies involved, but were instead intended to conceal what had really happened to the investors’ money.

The defendants are also charged with conspiring to obtain loans from Alamerica Bank through an allegedly fraudulent scheme involving the use of a third party to take out the loans on their behalf. The indictment alleges that the defendants allegedly convinced one of their investor victims to apply for over $900,000 in loans under his name, when—as they had planned—the defendants ultimately took and used those funds for their own purposes.  

This article by the Department of Justice was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Brookstone Law Receiver Update With Summary Judgment Against Jeremy Foti and Charles Marshall

Victims of the Brookstone Law mortgage scam have an update from the Receiver.

“The Court granted the FTC’s Motion for Summary Judgment against Jeremy Foti and Charles Marshall, which includes a permanent ban on participation with secured or unsecured debt relief products and services. Monetary Judgments were entered against Jeremy Foti for $18,146,866.34 and Charles Marshall for $1,784,022.61. Both have appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Jeremy Foti’s appeal was dismissed. Charles Marshall’s appeal is pending.

Final Judgment was also entered against the four Corporate Defendants: Brookstone Law P.C. (California), Brookstone Law P.C. (Nevada), Advantis Law P.C., and Advantis Law Group P.C. The Corporate Defendants are also subject to a permanent ban on secured or unsecured debt relief products and services and subject to a monetary judgment of $18,146,866.34.

The Court also authorized the Receiver to sell 300 Morning Star Lane, Newport Beach, CA held by Receivership Entity Time Out Management Ltd., LLC. The property is listed at $7,995,000 and is being actively marketed. After satisfying outstanding obligations and paying fees and expenses of the receivership, the proceeds will be disbursed to the FTC which may implement a consumer redress program or other equitable relief depending on the amount of money available.” – Source

Some small refunds may be coming to victims in the future from the FTC.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Department of Education Seems to Think Student Loan Forgiveness is Optional

The Department of Education Borrower Defense to Repayment has officially gone from being a blessing to a joke and now to essentially lights out.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made it clear that she feels forgiving federal student loans for students who are victims of school fraud is wasteful. She’s said, “all one had to do was raise his or her hands to be entitled to so-called free money.” – Source

It’s not free money since these are students who were the victims of school fraud. The Department of Education is supposed to get the money back from the for-profit schools that seem to be the primary focus of fraud claims.

Reports out now say the Department of Education has no employees devoted full-time to investigating borrower,s’ complaints.

There are more than 105,000 applications for student loan debt relief that are dying a slow dusty death at Education while the department fights to reduce relief for students.

Even with clear cases of discharge of federal student loans for closed schools, the Department of Education is apparently sucking wind.

Just yesterday the Department was sued by Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) who just wants Education to follow their own rules.

HERA says, “Tens of thousands of borrowers who attended approximately 1,400 campuses that closed from November 1, 2013 until three years prior to the filing of this Complaint are presently entitled to have their federal student loans discharged without submitting an application.”

The resistance to the DeVos Department of Education processing fraud discharge applications, closed school forgiveness, or disabled military veterans forgiveness, seem endemic.

The HERA lawsuit claims that since the Trump Administration has taken over the Department of Education, the automatic provision in the law for federal student loan forgiveness for closed schools is just ignored.

The complaint says, “As part of the 2016 Rule, the Automatic Provision provides that, with respect to schools that closed on or after November 1, 2013, the Department will automatically discharge the loans of all eligible borrowers who do not subsequently re-enroll in another Title IV-eligible institution within three years. 81 Fed. Reg. at 76,078-82. Implementation of this provisions is “not discretionary.”

It also says, “Many of these student loan borrowers attended for-profit colleges that closed abruptly following state or federal government investigations that revealed that the closed schools had deceived students into obtaining federal student loan funds, while simultaneously failing to deliver those students an education of value.”

But the complaint states, “Following the change in administration after the 2016 election, however, the Department has unabashedly and intentionally refused to implement the Automatic Provision. Upon information and belief, the Department continues to collect on federal student loans that it is required by law to discharge.”

On January 10, 2017 the then Under Secretary of Education, Ted Mitchell, sent out a document titled “Recommendation for ITT borrowers alleging that they were guaranteed employment.”

In that Education Department assessment, it was found, nearly 32% of borrower defense applications alleged ITT had guaranteed employment if the students attended.

The document gives evidence former ITT employees corroborated misleading employment claims were used to attract students. The document says, “ITT borrower defense claims based on guaranteed employment misrepresentations are substantiated by the affidavits, interviews, and testimony of former employees at campuses nationwide. This former employee evidence establishes that, in response to oral directives from management, recruiters from at least 2005 through ITT’s closing led prospective students to believe that employment was guaranteed.

ITT orally directed staff to present recruitment documents in a manner that guaranteed or otherwise assured employment. ITT employees were trained to provide these oral promises of employment despite the existence of written documents to the contrary.”

Yet the DeVos Education Department is sitting on forgiving these federal student loans, leaving defrauded students with damaged financial lives and at least in California, a clear case for immediate discharge under California law.

The same dockument referenced above goes on to say, “California’s UCL prohibits unfair competition, providing civil remedies for “any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising and any act prohibited by [the false advertising law].”” Here, ITT’s statements leading prospective students to believe that they were guaranteed employment constitute “unlawful” and “fraudulent” business practices under the UCL.”

By the very definition of the Borrower Defense to Repayment program the California students federal loans should have been forgiven a long time ago, they were not. And since ITT closed, the loans should have been forgiven under the closed school discharge forgiveness program. They were not.

Steve Rhode
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This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.