A so-called debt settlement company got the rug pulled out from under their “lying” business by New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and U.S. Postal Service Inspector-in-Charge Philip Bartlet. They announced an indictment that charges Mission Settlement Agency (Mission), its owner Michael Levitis and three employees with mail and wire fraud. They are accused of taking $2.2 million from 1200 customers, all across the country, and doing nothing for them.
The indictment says they promised they would deal with companies and credit bureaus to settle clients’ debt for about 55% of what they owed. Instead they took thousands in upfront fees and charged $49 per month. They apparently told their clients they would keep the money in escrow and use it to pay down debts. Turns out, they allegedly kept a good portion of the money and did no work. They’re also accused of lying about connections to the U.S. government and credit bureaus and about upfront fees to get customers to sign up.
In total Mission took over $6.6 million in fees, while paying only approximately $4.4 million to customers’ creditors.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “As alleged, Mission preyed upon the financial desperation of people around the country who like so many ordinary Americans were simply struggling to pay down their debts after the financial downturn. But the true mission of Mission turned out to be fraud.”
Owner Levitis is accused of using the money he billed clients to pay for the operating expenses of a restaurant-nightclub he controlled, lease payments for two different luxury Mercedes cars, and credit card bills for his mother.
This indictment is a big victory for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It initiated the investigation in July of 2012 and referred the case to the U.S. Attorney. The CFPB filed civil charges against Mission, Levitis and others.
It may be too late for some, but watch our video Avoid Debt Settlement and Credit Repair Companies