Republican Club of Indian River County hosts All-American Rally


AllAmericanRally_n

Chairman Frank J. Sosta, Jr. and the Republican Club of Indian River County have planned an All-American Rally this Saturday, September 26th at the Indian River Fairgrounds in Vero Beach from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.

The “All-American Rally” promises to be entertaining, inspiring, fun and joyful.  A versatile and talented local band – The Landsharks Band – will be performing.  They have performed locally and across the nation since the 1980’s.

Fun for the whole family includes, a car show, bounce houses, field games, an obstacle course, sand art and more. Local talent and American heroes from all over Indian River County, merchandise, treats, contests and prizes await those attending.

Hosted by the Republican Club of Indian River County, the All-American Rally is sponsored by “The Founders” – the Law Offices of Kelly Cambron, P.A. and Young’s Market.  Jon Osterholm serves as co-chairman of the Rally, while 10-year-old Katherine Ann Lewis of St. Helen Catholic School will sing the National Anthem.

The All-American Rally will feature a visit by Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Florida Senator Joe Negron, Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar and other state, federal and local officials.  “The Rally will offer an excellent opportunity to chat one-on-one with elected officials and those running for public office,” Sosta told South Florida Reporter.  “You won’t want to miss this event.”

“It’s an honor to sponsor the All-American Rally,” attorney Kelly Cambron of Vero Beach told the South Florida Reporter.  “We have a great venue, amazing speakers and a program that is all about community.”

The 2015 All-American Rally will be held at the Indian River Fairgrounds on Saturday, September 26th from 2:00 p.m. until 6 p.m.  Tickets for the event are $15.00 per person, including barbecue dinner.  Kids under 10 are free.  Dinner includes BBQ pork and chicken, grilled hot dogs, various side items, drink and desert treat.  Beer and wine may be purchased separately.

Executive sponsors of the All-American Rally include Wesley Davis, candidate for Property Appraiser; County Commissioner Tim Zorc; Clerk of Court Jeffrey Smith, and Joseph’s Lite Cookies.  Senator level sponsors include Lange Sykes, candidate for State Representative and Total LifeSafety.

For more information, please visit www.AllAmericanRally.us.   To purchase tickets, please visit AllAmericanRallyVeroBeach.Eventbrite.com.

“As a locally owned business, it’s an honor to support an event meant to bring community together,” John Kim of Young’s Market told the South Florida Reporter.

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Bill Lewis of Fort Lauderdale – Radio talk show host, Starbucks connoisseur, social media whiz, political consultant, extreme coupon shopper, identity theft expert, columnist, philanthropist and his kids Dad.

As a nationally recognized credit repair and ID theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Warns of Debt Collection Scam


Miami-Dade State Attorney Warns of Debt Collection Scam
Miami-Dade State Attorney Warns of Debt Collection Scam

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is warning residents about a recent e-mail scam filled with legal-sounding jargon – but with notable grammar and spelling mistakes – threatening the arrest of the recipient if they do not send $750 immediately in order to pay off an alleged debt, according to public information officer Ed Griffith on Tuesday.

The bogus e-mails contained a fake court case number, threaten an impending arrest and attempt to acquire valid credit card information from consumers.

“I’m outraged that thieves would hope to use the prosecutor’s office as a tool to get cash from terrified victims,” Fernandez Rundle stated. “We have already spoken to victims who almost fell for this scheme. Only luck and good judgment saved them.”

According to Fernandez Rundle, the scammers use the false identity of “attorney” Joseph Foster from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.   Inclusion of an official agency such as the state attorney’s office and the use of a fake name is a recent revision of e-mail and phone scams that include threats of arrest to collect debt that consumers do not owe.

Preliminary investigation reveals that the false e-mails may have originated in Thailand, making it unlikely that U.S. law enforcement will be able to arrest the scammers or get a return of lost monies, according to the state attorney’s office.

Victims in the Miami-Dade debt collection scam have reported that the fake debt collectors maintained a familiarity with their personal information and have additionally associated themselves with the “Morgan & Associates” law firm.

Return calls to a telephone number contained in the e-mails reveal possible use of VOIP technology.  These phone numbers have since been disconnected.

In similar scams, fake debt collectors speak English with a foreign accent and call themselves “Affidavit Consolidation Services,” “Cash Advance Inc.,” “Criminal Bureau of Identity,” “DNR Recovery,” “U.S. National Bank,” “US Justice Department/Payday Loan Division,” “Federal Investigation Bureau,” “United Legal Processing” and other phony names.

The fake collectors refuse to disclose their real names or addresses and are believed to be operating from homes, automobiles, and foreign countries.  As these scammers have kept themselves well hidden, law enforcement authorities have been unsuccessful in locating or shutting them down.

Fake debt collectors typically pose as lawyers, law enforcement officers, investigators, and bankers while attempting to collect on phony debt.  They threaten consumers with immediate arrest for “bank fraud” or other crimes unless a credit card number is provided or funds wired immediately. They scare and confuse consumers by using meaningless legal phrases such as “We are downloading warrants against you” or “We are filing an affidavit against you.”  Consumers that do not immediately fall for the scam are warned, “Only God can help you now.”

Fake debt collectors almost always call consumers at work – sometimes several times a day – advising their supervisors, “Your employee has committed fraud and is about to be arrested.” Such threats have been unsettling to consumers and employers.  Because the scammers make a special point of calling at work, employers should realize that their employee is an innocent victim of a criminal enterprise and cannot stop the calls voluntarily.

According to Fernandez Rundle, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office never communicates important information via e-mail and would never be involved in a debt collection action.  The office strongly recommends that consumers never electronically respond to situations that demand immediate action with threats of punishment or even open unsolicited e-mails from unfamiliar senders.  Consumers should also ask for documentation that proves an alleged debt exists.

“More potential victims are calling our office now that this scam has become public,” Ed Griffith, public information officer, told Examiner.  “A new twist on an old scam, consumers should be vigilant and not provide personal information or credit card numbers to anyone they haven’t first contacted themselves.”

For more information on this debt collection scam or to report possible fraud, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office can be contacted through their Cyber Crimes Unit at (305) 547-0837.

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As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 11,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

Palm Beach Sheriff and Audible Media Group partner to offer audio traffic app


PBSO Audio Traffic App by Audible Media Group
PBSO Audio Traffic App by Audible Media Group

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office have partnered with the Audible Media Group on a new state-of-the-art traffic application designed to provide residents with voice-activated, user-controlled, on-demand, audio traffic reports and PBSO breaking news and alerts, Chief Technology Officer Deniz Kumral reminded the public on Monday.

Called the PBSO Audio Traffic App, Bradshaw was skeptical when he first learned about the concept for a traffic report cell phone app designed to cut down on distracted driving.

“The expertise that was brought to this app was — we believe to be — state of the art,” explained Bradshaw at a recent press conference unveiling the new technology.  “The biggest piece of the puzzle that had to be in place was we didn’t want to have something that caused more distracted driving than we already had a problem with.”

Every year over 3000 people die nationwide because they were distracted while driving.  Through this joint effort, PBSO partnered with the Audible Media Group to launch an audio traffic app to deliver live traffic reports so drivers will not have to scroll maps commonly used by other traffic applications.

With distracted driving in mind, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office wanted an audible device so motorists would keep their eyes on the road rather than on their smartphones.

The PBSO Audio Traffic App features live traffic reports providing traffic information on Palm Beach County roads, including alternate route suggestions. The application also has the capability to send push notifications with breaking news from the Sheriff’s Office, including reports on missing persons, crimes in progress or hazardous conditions.

The app will work in all areas of Palm Beach County by triangulating the location of drivers through their phone’s global positioning system.

“I’m very excited about this – it’s a great partnership – and guess what, the price is the best that it could absolutely be, it’s free,” concluded Bradshaw.

The PBSO Audio Traffic App is available in the Apple App Store and at Google Play for Android devices.  It is operated through voice commands so a driver can get updates about traffic and alternate routes without having to look at their smartphone.

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As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 11,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

Florida Highway Patrol targets aggressive driving


“Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks”
“Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks”

In an effort to reduce commercial motor vehicle related crashes, injuries and fatalities by combining outreach, education and evaluation with targeted enforcement activities to raise awareness among car and truck drivers about safe driving behaviors, the Florida Highway Patrol has kicked off their “Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks” or “TACT” campaign, according to FHP Public Affairs Officer Sgt. Mark Wysocky on Monday.

Especially when it involves large trucks, the “Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks” imitative is meant to encourage safe driving on interstates and highways throughout Florida. The campaign runs through the end of July.

“The Florida Highway Patrol will be looking for car and truck drivers who display aggressive behavior, such as following too closely, speeding and unsafe lane changes,” Sgt. Wysocky told Examiner.   “When drivers follow too closely, they typically fail to recognize a trucker’s blind spots.  Drivers can possibly avoid causing a serious accident by recognizing and respecting them.”

In fatal crashes involving large trucks, 88 percent of the time the accident is attributable to driver error by both car and truck drivers.  Only 12 percent of the crashes are the result of vehicle defects, road conditions or inclement weather.

“Most crashes involving trucks involve driver error by both the car and truck driver,” stated Deputy Director Lt. Col. Kelly Hildreth in a prepared release.  “We can reduce crashes if we all share the roadways and avoid aggressive driving behaviors and practice patience around big trucks.”

In addition to targeted enforcement, the TACT campaign uses billboard and radio messaging to increase awareness among car and truck drivers of safe driving behaviors and of the heightened risk of receiving a ticket for a violation.

The Florida Highway Patrol has offered the following tips for safe driving:

· Stay out of the No Zone – watch for the huge blind spots (No Zones) around large trucks.

· Pass trucks with caution – pass on the left side for maximum visibility and maintain a constant speed.

· Do not cut trucks off – large trucks cannot stop as quickly as cars.

· Practice patience and try to be predictable – avoid making erratic moves if a truck is not moving as fast as you want them to.

For more information about “Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks” campaign or the Florida Highway Patrol’s Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement program, please visit www.flhsmv.gov/fhp.

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As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 11,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

Scam Alert: Feds accuse T-Mobile of ripping off customers in cramming scheme


scam-alert

In litigation aimed at fraudulent business practices within the mobile telephone industry, the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday accused T-Mobile of making hundreds of millions of dollars by scamming customers with unauthorized text message charges, according to FTC Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich.

The FTC is seeking a court order to permanently bar T-Mobile from “cramming,” or charging cellphone customers for spam text messages that they did not request or have an interest in receiving.

In a process known as “third-party billing,” carriers such as T-MobileAT&TSprint and Verizon typically place charges on a consumer’s bill for services provided by another company.   In return, the phone company receives a substantial percentage of the amount charged.

When the charges are placed on the bill without the consumer’s authorization, it is known as “cramming.”

T-Mobile — which brands itself as a low-cost alternative to top rivals AT&T and Verizon — received between 35 and 40 percent of the amount it charged customers for the bogus texts subscriptions, thus generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, the FTC alleged.

“It’s wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez indicated in a prepared statement. “The FTC’s goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is also launching an investigation into T-Mobile’s billing practices and has the power to level fines against the company if it determines that wrongdoing has occurred.

According to the complaint filed by the FTC, T-Mobile allegedly charged customers for spam texts — “such as flirting tips, horoscope information or celebrity gossip” — at a typical cost of $9.99 per month.  T-Mobile also ignored signs that the text messages were unwanted — such as a large number of customers seeking refunds — and made it difficult to discover and remove the charges.

“Rather than going after T-Mobile, the FTC should focus on the third-party companies that are sending the text messages,” argued T-Mobile CEO John Legere.

“As a single mother, I can hardly afford to pay additional and fraudulent fees,” T-Mobile customer Bina Fink Kohl of Weston told Examiner.  “As a T-Mobile customer, I expect them to be fair and honest in their dealings.  From the litigation, it appears that T-Mobile has been scamming me all along.”

According to T-Mobile, they have already made commitments to stop billing for unwanted spam text messages and issue refunds for unwanted text messages.

“T-Mobile is fighting harder than any of the carriers to change the way the wireless industry operates and we are disappointed that the FTC has chosen to file this action against the most pro-consumer company in the industry rather than the real bad actors,” stated Legere.

According to Jessica Rich of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the agency and T-Mobile have not been able to reach a settlement on the charges, resulting in the litigation filed Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission.

“In court we will determine just how much” T-Mobile needs to refund its consumers, but “our evidence to date is that hundreds and millions of dollars are at stake,” Rich said.  “Our first priority is to get the money back to consumers.”

Rich called the charges against T-Mobile — the agency’s first cramming charges against a telecom company — “a new front in [the federal agency’s] longstanding campaign” against wireless cramming.

The T-Mobile case “sends a strong message to other mobile phone companies,” Rich concluded.  “We will continue to bring additional cases to deter this conduct.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission complaint, many of the allegations focus on T-Mobile billing practices, which “made it difficult for consumers to detect that they were being charged, much less by whom.”

Customers would have to scan through several screens online and up to 50 pages of a physical bill to find obscure and fraudulent accounting for the third-party charges, the FTC said.

Among the allegations were that prepaid customers – who do not receive monthly bills – would have the third-party charges deducted automatically.  Once customers discovered the charges and their source, T-Mobile would refuse to fully refund the charges, sometimes directing the customers to contact the third-parties.

“I’m alarmed that T-Mobile is accused of fraudulent billing practices,” Remington Longstreth told Examiner. “I never check my bill completely.  With that said, I don’t expect to be cheated either.”

The federal investigation and complaint against T-Mobile comes at no worse time as the company is reportedly in talks to be bought by Sprint.  This highly-anticipated deal would combine the country’s third- and fourth-largest wireless companies.

Legere concluded by calling the lawsuit against T-Mobile “sensationalized legal action” that is “unfounded and without merit.”

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As a nationally recognized credit repair and identity theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

Two sentenced in identity theft tax refund fraud scheme involving thousands of patients’ personal identity information


IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams
IRS warns against tax return identity theft scams

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, announced late Friday that Michael Ali Bryant, Sr., and his wife, Latina Rashawn Bryant, both of Lauderdale Lakes, were sentenced for their participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Michael Bryant, 41, was sentenced to 144 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Latina Bryant, 43, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Having previously pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft, Michael Bryant also pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices.

Latina Bryant previously pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of using an unauthorized access device.

Co-defendant Marquis Onigirin Moye, 24, of Pompano Beach, was sentenced on March 28, 2014 to 54 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Moye previously pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Co-defendants Tiffany Shenae Cooper, 33, of Deerfield Beach, and Angela Dione Rosier, 41, of Coral Springs, were sentenced on February 28, 2014.  Cooper was sentenced to 57 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Rosier was sentenced to 49 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.   The court also ordered both defendants to pay $129,390.06 in restitution to the IRS and the medical services provider whose database had been breached.

Cooper previously pled guilty to one count of possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft.  Rosier previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud.

According to court records, a confidential source initially approached Michael Bryant and inquired about purchasing narcotics.  Bryant told the operative that he did not have any narcotics but that he did have personal identity information that he was willing to sell.  A controlled purchase of approximately 230 names was made.

Bryant instructed the operative on how to commit tax fraud and provided specific instructions on what information to enter into the web pages of the internet-based tax services to obtain a tax refund.

An examination of the records revealed that they were from a medical services provider.

Rosier was an employee of the medical services provider.  Cooper spoke to Rosier to obtain user names and passwords for current employees of the medical services provider.  Cooper admitted to illegally logging on to the medical services provider’s computer network and downloading personal information for the purpose of committing various types of fraud.  She was assisted in her activities by Rosier and co-defendant Moye.

Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia R. Wood.

Home buyers qualify for FHA loan despite short sale or foreclosure


Eli Younes of Viking Mortgage in Pembroke Pines
Eli Younes of Viking Mortgage in Pembroke Pines

Mortgage borrowers may now qualify for an FHA mortgage under new guidelines established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to Eli Younes of Viking Realty Group in Pembroke Pines on Tuesday.

As a result of the housing collapse, many homeowners experienced a serious reduction in income or lost their jobs due to the crumbling economy.   Some mortgage borrowers were forced to file bankruptcy or short sale their home to avoid foreclosure.  

Others were not so lucky and lost their home on the courthouse steps.

The new HUD rules allow borrowers whose credit was damaged due to a temporary loss of employment or income to qualify for an FHA mortgage if they have substantially recovered from that situation and maintained a positive credit history for at least 12 months.

Borrowers who recently experienced a bankruptcy, foreclosure, short-sale, loan delinquencies, deed-in-lieu, debt collections or other situation negatively impacting their FICO credit score may now be able to qualify for an FHA loan.

Recognizing that any number of events may have impacted a borrowers’ credit rating, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) believes that such catastrophic event does not mean they are not financially stable or unable to make a mortgage payment.  

As such, the previous 3-year waiting period required by the FHA on financing a new home has been revised.

“Referred to as the ‘Back to Work’ initiative, this program is designed for borrowers who lost their home through foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy or deed in lieu and also suffered a 20% or more loss in household income,” Eli Younes of Viking Mortgage told Examiner.  “As with most FHA loans, this program only requires a 3.5% down payment and is applicable for all purchase loans other than the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage.”

In order to qualify for a mortgage under the “Back to Work” initiative, there are several steps that must be taken to prove an “Economic Event” that was beyond the borrower’s control.

Employment Requirements:

The lender must verify that the borrower lost at least 20% or more in household income – or became unemployed – for a period of six months prior to the foreclosure, short-sale, or deed-in-lieu.  To verify loss of income, the lender must request a written Verification of Employment to show the termination date or loss of income, receipt of unemployment compensation, or signed W-2’s and tax returns detailing the reduction in earnings.

To demonstrate a loss of income for part-time or seasonal employment, the borrower must prove a 2-year history in the same field prior to loss of employment.  Borrowers will also be required to prove that they have fully recovered from their hardship, increased earnings and have maintained other credit obligations for a period of 12 months following foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy or deed in lieu.

Credit Requirements:

When evaluating a borrower for the “Back to Work” initiative following a foreclosure, the lender may deem the borrower eligible if:

1.)  The borrower’s credit report is free of any late housing payments within the last 12 months;

2.)  All other mortgage accounts must be current for the last 12 months, even if the loan was previously modified to avoid a foreclosure action;

3.)  The borrower’s credit report contains no more than a single 30-day delinquency on payments due other creditors; and

4.)  The borrower’s credit report contains no current collection accounts or public records.  This condition may be waived in instances of identity theft or borrower’s with medical collections.

Bankruptcy Filings:

1.)  Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:  One year must have elapsed since the bankruptcy discharge.  Proof must also be shown that the bankruptcy filing was the result of an “Economic Event” covered within the FHA program guidelines.

2.)  Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Most lenders will require that the bankruptcy filing be discharged with all payments required under the agreement having been made on time.  For borrowers currently in bankruptcy, written approval from the court allowing them to enter a new mortgage contract is required.

Housing Counseling Requirement:

For purposes of establishing satisfactory credit following an “Economic Event,” mortgage borrowers’ under the “Back to Work” initiative must:

1.)  Receive homeownership counseling or a combination of homeownership education and counseling, at a minimum, one hour of one-on-one counseling from HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, as defined at 24 C.F.R. §214.100; and

2.)  Be completed a minimum of thirty (30) days but no more than six (6) months prior to submitting a loan application to a lender, as application is defined in Regulation X, implementing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 24 C.F.R. §3500.2(b).

The housing education may be provided by HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, state housing finance agencies, approved intermediaries or their sub-grantees, or through an online course.  It may be conducted in person, via telephone, via internet, or other methods approved by HUD, and mutually agreed upon by the borrower and housing counseling agency.

Rules for Renters:

Under certain circumstances, renters may qualify under the “Back to Work” initiative.  For purposes of establishing satisfactory credit, mortgage borrowers must:

1.)  The borrower’s credit report is free of any late rental payments within the last 12 months;

2.)  The borrower’s credit report contains no more than a single 30-day delinquency on payments due other creditors; and

3.)  The borrower’s credit report contains no current collection accounts or public records.  This condition may be waived in instances of identity theft or borrower’s with medical collections.

A foreclosure, short-sale, Chapter 13 bankruptcy or deed-in-lieu will continue to plague a borrower’s credit report at the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion consumer reporting agencies for a period of seven years.  A discharged Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain on the credit report for a period of ten years.

“With the housing crash, many homeowners experienced unemployment or depreciated home values and for one reason or another were not able to make their mortgage payments,” Carlos J. Reyes, a foreclosure defense attorney with the Reyes Law Group in Fort Lauderdale, told Examiner.  “The recent changes in the FHA guidelines have finally recognized the financial hardship faced by many borrowers and is allowing them to once again reach for the American Dream through homeownership.”

The new guidelines are in effect immediately and will be in force through at least September, 2016.

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As a nationally recognized credit repair and ID theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.