July 23, 2013

DOJ seeks $10M in damages from Texas debt-relief company

SALEM -- More than 400 Oregonians have fallen victim to a Texas debt-relief company. Now the Oregon Attorney General is seeking damages against World Law Debt, and hoping to ban the company from ever doing business in Oregon again.

“These were just fraudulent business practices,” said Jeff Manning of the Oregon Department of Justice. “We can’t stand for this.”

World Law Debt is an Austin, Texas based company that uses many different business names including: Swift Rock Financial, Inc., Orion Processing, LLC, and World Law Debt Settlement. It promises cash-strapped consumers, including many seniors, help pay their credit card debt, mortgage debt and other debt by negotiating directly with creditors.

But first, consumers must set up an escrow account with their own money. It’s money that some consumers said goes to World Law Debt, instead of their creditors as promised.

“They never talked to any of my creditors” said Hope Jentis, a hazelnut farmer who fell behind on a couple of her credit cards. “Normally, I pay off my credit cards every month, but I was late on two payments. I panicked. I’ve got to do something, you know?”

Jentis fell on hard financial times because a plant disease wiped out nearly half of her hazelnut trees and subsequently, half of her income. So Jentis called World Law Debt, which promised to be with her “every step of the way” during her debt relief.

“They said they would negotiate with creditors, and I would end up paying a third of what I actually, of what they said I owed them,” she said.

The Department of Justice is seeking $10 million in damages and restitution for every Oregon victim. In addition, they also want to keep World Law Debt from ever doing business in the state again.

“They entered into these agreements to settle consumer debt,” said the DOJ’s Jeff Manning. “And basically pocketed a lot of their customers money.”

Manning said the money is staggering. Four-hundred-twenty-five people gave money to World Law Debt, totaling more than $1.5 million. Only about $275,000 went to settlements, and more than $960,000 was company profit.

KGW’s Unit 8 tracked down a former World Law Debt employee in Austin Texas.

The employee, who asked to not be named, said dishonesty was a part of his job.

“(It) definitely felt unethical. Obviously I was kind of part of it,” the employee said. “I’m lying. I'm basically lying to the person on the phone, telling them we can still make a plan. We can figure something out knowing in my head that ultimately they're probably going to get sued by one of their creditors.”

Late Thursday, Unit 8 was contacted by a representative or World Law Debt in Austin. He threatened an injunction filed in Federal Court to prevent KGW from airing this story.

So, KGW checked the background of the man who called, and as It turns out, he is not an attorney.

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