RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced on Monday that he has filed suit against a Florida-based company that allegedly defrauded consumers by promising debt relief that never came.
The Consumer Law Group, based in Boca Raton, Fla., managers Michael L. Metzner, Ran David Barnea and Daniel T. Post and company American Debt Negotiators allegedly collected $2.6 million from state consumers but offered little or no help.
Metzner is a Florida lawyer but is not licensed to practice in North Carolina and the company is not a law firm. Cooper contends that, despite its name, the Consumer Law Group employs mostly telemarketers who pitch debt settlement services, not lawyers.
"Taking advantage of consumers who are trying to pay off their bills is wrong, and it's also against the law," Cooper said. "Never agree to pay an upfront fee to anyone who promises to help get you out of debt."
Cooper alleges that the Consumer Law Group promised to reduce consumer debts by half and leave them debt-free without bankruptcy.
In doing so, the company has collected more than $2.6 million from 3,000 North Carolinians, Cooper says.
He further alleges that the Consumer Law Group has rarely worked out agreements to settle debts but has kept its substantial fees regardless.
Cooper also alleges that the Consumer Law Group advertises that its services are performed by attorneys when they are not, and misleads consumers to believe that it is a government-affiliated program.
Cooper is seeking a court order to temporarily ban all of the defendants' illegal practices and a permanent ban to stop their unlawful debt adjusting and other deceptive practices. He is also asking for refunds be given to all consumers in his state, and for all contracts to be cancelled. Cooper's lawsuit also seeks payment of civil penalties and a freeze on the company's assets.
Seven consumers have filed complaints about the Consumer Law Group with Cooper's Consumer Protection Division.