The Federal Trade Commission has settled with a set of defendants associated with the A+ Financial Center scheme. They were charged in last year’s joint law enforcement sweep against five companies that made millions of illegal pre-recorded robocalls claiming to be from “Rachel” and “Cardholder Services” and pitching credit card interest rate reduction services.
In the five complaints announced in November 2012, the FTC charged the companies and their principals with misleading consumers about their services, calling phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, illegally collecting up-front fees, and making illegal robocalls. According to the FTC, the A+ Financial Center defendants told consumers that for an up-front fee of between $495 and $1,595, they would lower their credit card interest rate, often promising rates as low as six percent or even zero percent. But after collecting the fee, the defendants did little if anything to help consumers lower their credit card interest rates, or obtain the promised long-term savings.
In settling the FTC’s charges, the defendants are banned from making robocalls, continuing to pitch unsecured debt relief services, misrepresenting the attributes of any financial product or service, and engaging in abusive telemarketing practices such as calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry. The order also prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting the attributes of any goods or services, and from misrepresenting their relationship with any bank, credit card issuer, credit reporting agency, other lender, or government entity. It also requires them to have reliable evidence to support any claims they make to consumers.
In addition, the proposed order prohibits the A+ defendants from disclosing or benefiting from their customer lists, and prohibits them from collecting or trying to collect money from any consumer who bought their service. Finally, it imposes a judgment of $9,238,155, which will be suspended after defendants transfer all of their assets (except $25,000), including a 2007 Mercedes Benz CL, a 1999 boat valued at approximately $17,000, and a 2002 boat worth about $45,000.
The case against A+ Financial Center, LLC was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against the following defendants: A+ Financial Center, LLC, also doing business as Accelerated Financial Centers, LLC; Accelerated Accounting Services LLC; Christopher L. Miano, individually and as the managing member of Accelerated Accounting Services LLC; and Dana M. Miano, individually and as the managing member of A+ Financial Center, LLC.
The Commission vote approving the proposed settlement was 4-0.