A U.S. district court granted a Federal Trade Commission request and has temporarily shut down a Florida-based operation that allegedly continued to pitch bogus credit-repair services nationwide, despite a 2010 court order requiring it to stop. The new court order, which will remain in place while the FTC seeks a contempt ruling against the defendants for violating the original order, bars the scam operators from all activities involving credit repair, and from offering credit-related products, programs, or services.
In 2008, the FTC filed a complaint against Latrese and Kevin Hargrave and the firms they control, alleging that they 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 a radio script, the defendants stated, "They specialize in erasing bad credit! Hargrave & Associates covers all three major credit bureaus, slow pays, charge-offs, repossessions can be erased for two-hundred, fifty dollars."
In January 2010, the court ruled in favor of the FTC and barred the defendants from engaging in the deceptive conduct – including making or using untrue or misleading statements to induce consumers to buy their credit repair services. It also barred them from charging or receiving an up-front payment for such services before they are performed.
At the FTC's request, in mid-May 2012, the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Florida, issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants, appointed a receiver, and froze their assets, stating that "there is good cause to believe that the defendants have violated, and continue to violate provisions of the permanent injunction" against them. The FTC alleged the defendants continued to violate the FTC Act and the Credit Repair Organizations Act through their false credit repair claims. Following a hearing in late May, the court entered a preliminary injunction order, temporarily barring the defendants from engaging in deceptive credit repair offers and freezing the defendants' assets.
The FTC received invaluable assistance in this matter from the Arkansas Office of the Attorney General, the Florida Office of the Attorney General, the Louisiana Office of the Attorney General, the Tennessee Office of the Attorney General, and the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida.
The Hargrave defendants include: Latrese & Kevin Enterprises Inc., doing business as (dba) Hargrave & Associates Financial Solutions; Latrese Hargrave, also known as Latrese V. Williams, individually and as an officer of Latrese & Kevin Enterprises Inc.; and Kevin Hargrave, Sr., individually and as an officer of Latrese & Kevin Enterprises Inc. In addition to the defendants charged in the original complaint, the contempt action named three other companies the Hargraves control – BFS Empowerment Financial Services Inc., Help My Credit Now Services Inc., and Kevtrese Enterprises Inc.
The FTC filed the contempt action against the Hargrave defendants on April 13, 2012, and the court entered an order temporarily stopping their actions on May 15, 2012. The court entered the preliminary injunction on June 1, 2012. The contempt action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division. The preliminary injunction against the defendants will remain in effect until the court rules on the FTC's contempt request.
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