Consumer bureau, DOJ team up against fraudulent debt-relief firm

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“As alleged, Mission preyed upon the financial desperation of people around the country who – like so many ordinary Americans – were simply struggling to pay down their debts after the financial downturn,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.

Two former employees also pleaded guilty in the Justice Department case.

Separately, the CFPB filed civil charges against Mission Settlement Agency and the Premier Consultant Group, based in New Jersey, for charging illegal fees in violation of a prohibition on fraudulent telemarketing sales.

“Today’s action takes aim at two operations we believe are designed to profit through unscrupulous and illegal business practices,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. “Consumers deserve better and we are proud of this coordinated effort with the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to crack down on harmful behavior.”

The Justice Department charges were the first ever criminal charges based on a referral from the CFPB. The consumer watchdog is required to refer evidence of criminal activity to the Justice Department by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which created the agency.

On its website, Mission calls itself "the intelligent alternative to bankruptcy, credit card debt consolidation programs and credit counseling."

A representative from Premier Consultant Group could not be reached for comment on the charges. An official with Mission Settlement Agency declined to comment and hung up on The Hill.

The Justice Department is seeking to make the company forfeit all of the proceeds from the alleged scheme, including the nightclub, two properties and 40 bank accounts. The CFPB is also pushing for restitution for the victims and penalties against the companies.