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Federal and state authorities shut down Consumer Assistance Project LLC in 2016, saying it deceived customers and made false promises to eliminate or reduce their student loan debt.
The Federal Trade Commission said the company ran a “student debt-relief and credit-repair scam.”
The company also had done business as Back Office Law LLC; Back Office Law Project Corp.; Consumer Assistance LLC; Consumer Assistance Project Corp.; and Non-Profit Guardian Services Inc. Associated shell companies were Palermo Global LLC, Gran Gaucha LLC and Blac Bag LLC.
Enforcement actions: A federal judge banned operators from any involvement in businesses promising to mend credit or resolve debt problems. A settlement with the FTC and the state of Florida in 2016 ordered the companies and CEO Chastity Valdes to pay $2.32 million in restitution. But after submitting financial statements, Valdes was required to pay only $4,500.
The order stemmed from the federal lawsuit filed in 2016 by the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida attorney general that accused Valdes and her companies of selling customers a false bill of goods, including:
- Charging illegal upfront fees of $250 and monthly fees up to $303
- Promising to reduce student loan payments by 50% to 90%
- Posting social media reviews written by managers and associates
- Falsely promising better credit scores
The lawsuit alleged that the companies and CEO “operated an unlawful debt relief enterprise that has preyed on consumers’ anxiety about student loan debt by falsely promising to reduce or eliminate that debt.”
What the company claims to provide: Credit mending and student loan debt management and elimination
Based: Coral Springs, Florida.
Management: Chastity Valdes, CEO and founder; Barbara Goglio-Ghafir, director; Marlene Funk, director; Robert C. Grant, director; Mayte Matranca, director; Peter Matranca, director.
Valdes is listed in business filings as a manager of Care Source Mutual LLC; Gran Gaucha LLC; Morning Line Investments LLC; Pre-Paid Paralegal LLC; Back Office Law LLC; M D Spas LLC; and Unforgivable Hair Extensions Inc.
Valdes owns Skull SMP Clinic, a Florida business that tattoos scalps of people with hair loss, according to her Florida Health Department tattoo-artist license and a 2016 patent application that she filed.
Sources: Federal Trade Commission, Florida attorney general’s office, U.S. District Court – Southern District of Florida, Florida business records, Justia trademarks, Trademarkia, Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Health in Broward County