KABOOM! (Florida — Again): FTC Hits Bogus Credit-Repair Firm With $14 Million Judgment; Alleged Schemers Lose Cars, Real Estate In Miami-Dade, Broward Counties

BULLETIN: (UPDATED 11:27 A.M. EDT (U.S.A.) The Federal Trade Commission has lowered the boom on Clean Credit Report Services Inc. of Florida and three individuals associated with the firm.

In a settlement from a case brought in October 2008, the FTC has obtained a judgment of $14.4 million. The defendants must surrender their assets, including about $165,000 in frozen funds.

The settlement agreement also includes “any proceeds received from selling their six commercial and three residential properties under foreclosure in Florida; commercial property in Bogota, Colombia; a 1992 Mercedes S300; and a 1997 Chevrolet Venture.”

In total, Clean Credit Report Services Inc., Ricardo A. Miranda, Ruthy Villabona and Daniel R. Miranda are giving up “two cars, three houses, and six commercial properties in Broward and Miami-Dade counties in Florida, and in Bogota, Colombia,” the FTC said.

The defendants admitted no wrongdoing.

Clean Credit Report operated from North Miami, according to court filings. The company used a website (now defunct), radio ads and televisions ads to fleece customers, the FTC charged.

Here is how the company pitched its offer on its website, according to the FTC:

“DEROGATORY ACCOUNTS ARE DISPUTED CCRS will help you to legally dispute all your negative remarks directly with the 3 credit reporting agencies.”

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“Get ready to see DELETED, DELETED, DELETED, DELETED, DELETED, on the responses from the credit reporting agencies.”

The alleged schemers targeted people going through rough financial times and illegally charged them upfront fees, the FTC charged.

They also fraudulently claimed that they could remove accurate and timely information from credit reports, charging $400 to do so and debiting the amount from customers’ bank accounts, the FTC said.

The agency noted in court filings that eight of nine properties the defendants will be giving up already are in foreclosure.

Florida has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the United States. Certain MLM and Internet Marketing companies — in efforts to recruit financially strapped customers — routinely use the word “foreclosure” in sales pitches, positioning the business “opportunity” as the remedy for the foreclosure problem.

Such ads often feature a dire drum beat, as images of people down on their luck flash on the screen. Biz Ad Splash, a failed autosurf, used such an ad. The company disappeared with an unknown amount of money sent in by members earlier this year — and then issued an announcement that it was “sad” about the development.

Biz Ad Splash and it dire drum beat and “foreclosure” message targeted members of Florida-based AdSurfDaily, which was implicated in a Ponzi scheme by the U.S. Secret Service in August 2008. More than $80 million was seized in the ASD case.

Some ASD members now are recommending a Florida-based program called MPB Today, which also uses a dire drum beat and the word “foreclosure” in its sales pitch.

It is known that some members of ASD also were in the credit-repair business. One ASD supporter claimed in court filings that he could undermine a bank’s interest in a foreclosure case by filing “twenty-one dollars in silver coinage” at a courthouse in Missouri.

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