Under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Florida, the operators of an alleged student debt relief and credit repair scam will be banned from those lines of business.
The stipulated final order announced today resolves charges the FTC and the State of Florida brought in April 2016, against Chastity Valdes and her companies, Consumer Assistance LLC, Consumer Assistance Project Corp., and Palermo Global LLC. The defendants allegedly lured borrowers with false promises of “eliminating” their student loan debts and repairing their credit and then charged illegal up-front fees, and posted positive online reviews of their services to appear as if customers wrote them.
The order also bars the defendants from misrepresenting endorsements, profiting from consumers’ personal information, and failing to dispose of it properly. It imposes a judgment of more than $2.3 million, representing the amount of money consumers lost, which will be suspended upon payment of virtually all of their assets, totaling $4,500. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 3-0. The FTC and the State of Florida filed the order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
To help make consumers aware of fraudulent debt relief services, the FTC offers advice about student loan debt relief, in English and Spanish, and the latest in a series of graphic novels about scams targeting Latino communities – Maria and Rafael Learn the Signs of a Debt Relief Scam. The FTC also offers a list of every company and person courts have banned from selling debt relief services as a result of FTC actions.