The Federal Trade Commission late last week announced that it had won a $6.4 million fine against a credit repair operation that apparently ignored a 2010 order from the enforcement agency over its misleading practices. A court ordered the defendants to pay $6.4 million to the FTC within 30 days and permanently shut down their credit repair business.
Judge Marcia Morales Howard of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division issued a contempt order against Kevin Hargrave and Latrese Hargrave and the companies they control – BFS Empowerment Financial Services Inc., Help My Credit Now Credit Services Inc., and Kevtrese Enterprises Inc.
The court found that despite entry of a January 2010 order that barred the Florida-based defendants from deceptively marketing credit repair services, the defendants continued to violate the FTC Act and the Credit Repair Organizations Act by claiming that they could permanently remove negative information from consumers’ credit reports, even when the information was accurate. The court also found the defendants in contempt for charging a $250 “enrollment fee,” in violation of the advance fee prohibition of the prior order.
The January 2010 order resulted from a complaint the FTC filed against the defendants in October 2008 as part of a federal and state law enforcement sweep against credit repair operations that allegedly deceptively marketed their services. According to the complaint, the defendants advertised on the Internet and radio stations and charged $250 to $270 per person and $450 per couple for purported credit repair services, requiring half or all of the charge to be paid in advance. In their advertisements, defendants touted that they “specialize in erasing bad credit!”