On Friday, the Federal Trade Commission announced action against a Florida-based credit repair company that allegedly continued to pitch bogus services despite a 2010 court order requiring it to stop. In the most recent action, Latrese and Kevin Hargrave allegedly continued to scam unsuspecting victims through new companies.
Signed by U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Howard, the new order will remain in place while the FTC seeks a contempt ruling against the Hargrave organization for violating its initial cease and desist order. Pending further court action, the Hargraves are banned from all activities involving credit repair and from offering credit-related products, programs, or services.
In 2008, the FTC filed a complaint against the Hargraves and the firms they control, alleging that they advertised bogus credit repair services on the Internet and radio stations. Consumers were charged $250 to $270 per person and $450 per couple. They were also required to pay half or all of the fees in advance of services of being rendered.
In a radio script, the Hargrave’s stated, “They specialize in erasing bad credit! Hargrave & Associates covers all three major credit bureaus, slow pays, charge-offs, repossessions can be erased for $250.”
In early 2010, the court ruled in favor of the FTC and barred the Hargraves from engaging in 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 any such services before they are performed.
In mid-May, at the FTC’s request the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Fla., issued a temporary restraining order against the Hargraves, appointed a receiver, and froze the Hargrave’s assets, stating that “there is good cause to believe that they had violated and continued to violate the provisions of the permanent injunction” against them, the order states.
The FTC alleges the Hargraves 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, barring the Hargraves from engaging in deceptive credit repair offers and freezing their assets.
The Hargrave defendants include: Latrese & Kevin Enterprises Inc., doing business as 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 started in an effort to allegedly circumvent the original cease and desist order: BFS Empowerment Financial Services Inc., Help My Credit Now Services Inc., and Kevtrese Enterprises Inc.
The FTC received invaluable assistance in the prosecution of this matter from the Arkansas Attorney General, the Florida Attorney General, the Louisiana Attorney General, the Tennessee Attorney General, and the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida.
As the nation’s consumer watchdog, the FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online complaint assistant or call 1-877-382-4357.
The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The Federal Trade Commission’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
Bill Lewis is the principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates and host of the Credit Report with Bill Lewis — a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends and issues on AM 740 WSBR in south Florida.