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Friday, June 14, 2024

FTC Action Leads to Permanent Ban for Scammers Who Charged Students Seeking Debt Relief with Junk Fees

A group of student loan debt relief scammers will be permanently banned from the debt relief industry and is required to turn over their assets as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

According to the FTC’s August 2023 complaint, since at least 2019, Express Enrollment LLC (also doing business as SLFD Processing), Intercontinental Solutions LLC (also doing business as Apex Doc Processing LLC), and their operators Marco Manzi, Ivan Esquivel, and Robert Kissinger falsely claimed to be affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education and used “Biden Loan Forgiveness” or some similar name, which consumers have understood to refer to the Biden-Harris Administration’s Student Loan Debt Relief Plan, to lure students into signing up for their phony student debt relief scheme. The FTC charged that the scheme’s operators collected approximately $8.8 million in junk fees in exchange for student loan debt relief services that did not exist. The defendants also used these misrepresentations to illegally obtain consumers’ bank account, debit card, or credit card information, and typically collect hundreds of dollars in unlawful advance fees—sometimes through remotely created checks in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, according to the FTC’s complaint.

A federal court temporarily halted the operations and froze the assets of Apex Processing Center and its owners after the FTC filed the complaint to end the deceptive practices.

The proposed stipulated orders, which must be approved by a federal judge before they can go into effect, will ban Express Enrollment LLC and Intercontinental Solutions LLC, Kissinger, and Esquivel from the debt relief industry. The orders will also prohibit them from making any misrepresentations about financial products or services and from using false statements to collect consumers’ financial information. The proposed orders also impose a monetary judgment of $7.4 million, which is largely suspended due to an inability to pay. The defendants are required to turn over personal and business assets. If any of the defendants are found to have materially misrepresented their finances, the full amount of the monetary judgment would become immediately due from that defendant.

Litigation continues against Manzi, the remaining defendant in the case.

The FTC has resources on how to avoid student loan debt relief scams at ftc.gov/StudentLoans. Consumers can get assistance with their student loans for free at StudentAid.gov.

The Commission votes approving the stipulated final orders were 3-0. The FTC filed the proposed orders in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The staff attorneys for this matter are Carlton Mosley and Gregory Ashe of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Official news published at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2024/02/ftc-action-leads-permanent-ban-scammers-who-charged-students-seeking-debt-relief-junk-fees

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