(CN) – Legal Debt Cure and a network of companies and attorneys raked in $24 million by preying on indebted, vulnerable consumers while “selling virtually every variation of fraudulent ‘debt relief’ known to man,” according to a RICO class action in Wilmington, N.C., Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff Chris Taylor of Pennsylvania says the defendants – five companies and 11 people, eight of them attorneys – charged at least 6,000 consumers more than $4,000 apiece for debt-relief services they never delivered.
Taylor says he had more than $30,000 in credit card debt when he “scraped together” the $4,500 he paid in advance to defendant Credit Card Solution.
The “relief” the company gave him, Taylor says, consisted of little more than “instructing its customers to dispute their debts on frivolous theories, cease paying all debts, and provoke debt collectors into committing [offenses against federal debt collection laws] to offset their debts and generate leverage to force creditors to delete negative information” from credit reports.
The class claims that the nationwide Credit Collections Defense Network of phony debt reduction companies continues to prey on consumers, offering hope but delivering “manifestly incorrect legal advice,” and causing further harm.
“Instead of seeing their debts vanish and their credit scores raised to new heights, plaintiffs are infinitely worse off … with ruined credit, difficulty finding new jobs, family and marital stress, collection calls, lawsuits, judgments, and sheriffs’ levies and sales, and are often left with bankruptcy as their only relief,” according to the complaint.
“On top of the humiliation and mental anguish of eventually admitting to themselves and others that they have been scammed out of thousands of dollars, very often the last money they had to their names … one or more plaintiffs have attempted or committed suicide.”
The complaint asks for “not less than” $1.4 billion based on trebled damages in RICO cases: $24 million in actual damages, “inducing nonpayment” of $150 million in credit card debt, and another trebling of damages under North Carolina law.
The named defendants are Lee W. Bettis Jr. Esq.; Pat Leigh Pittman Esq.; Joanne K. Partin Esq.; Robert Emanuel Esq.; Stephen A. Dunn Esq.; Raymond E. Dunn Jr. Esq.; Emanuel & Dunn PLLC of North Carolina; Bettis Dunn & Dunn of North Carolina; CCDN LLC of Nevada; Legal Debt Cure LLC of Nevada; R.K. Lock & Associates of Illinois dba the Credit Collections Defense Network; Jen Devine; Robert K. Lock Jr. Esq.; Colleen Tomasino Lock; Philip M. Manger Esq.; S. John Hagenstein; The Credit Card Solution of Texas; and Robert Mitchell Lindsey.
The class is represented by Christopher W. Livingston.