Attorney General Patrick Morrisey files suit against debt settlement business
AG’s Office says debt collection business misrepresented hundreds of West Virginia consumers
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced this week that his Office recently filed suit in Kanawha County Circuit Court seeking to prohibit Legal Helpers Debt Resolution LLC from doing any further business in the state.
In his complaint, Attorney General Morrisey alleges Legal Helpers Debt Resolution LLC, a Nevada company based in Chicago, violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting that its lawyers could provide debt relief services in the state. The Attorney General’s Office believes more than 250 West Virginia consumers enrolled with the company and collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in advance fees to help resolve their debt, only to not have the debt paid.
“Our office is committed to protecting West Virginia consumers from any business that does not adhere to the laws on our books,” Attorney General Morrisey said.
The lawsuit alleges Legal Helpers misrepresented itself by suggesting its lawyers could work in West Virginia when in fact none of the company’s attorneys currently are licensed in the state to practice law. The lawsuit alleges the company instead used third-party entities to act on its behalf.
In addition to naming Legal Helpers Debt Resolution LLC, the lawsuit also names as defendants Legal Helpers’ principal owners: Thomas Macey and Jeffrey Aleman, both of Illinois; Jason Searns, of Colorado; as well as former partner, Jeffrey Hyslip, who lives in Illinois but is licensed to practice law in Ohio.
The lawsuit claims that consumers who enrolled with Legal Helpers were instructed to stop paying creditors and told instead to open a new dedicated account with the third-party vendor. Consumers then made monthly payments to the third-party vendor instead of the creditor. Legal Helpers and their third-party vendors paid themselves from the dedicated account for managing and/or for services rendered. The lawsuit alleged Legal Helpers failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose that it would not provide debt relief services to consumers, including negotiation and debt settlement, until all of its fees have been paid.
“We believe at least 250 West Virginia consumers were affected, and that the defendants provided no legal services or any discernible value to their customers in the state even though they collected fees from them,” Morrisey said.
“Debt settlement is one form of debt relief that may work for some people. But when lawyers claim they are going to provide the services, they ought to handle the licensing issues properly,” Morrisey added.
The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin and restrain Legal Helpers from conducting business in West Virginia in violation of the law. It additionally seeks refunds and restitution to consumers who enrolled with the company, as well as civil fines and penalties.
Consumers who believe they have been scammed by a debt relief business should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division toll free at 800-368-8808. Complaint forms also may be found online at www.wvago.gov. To read a copy of the filing, go to www.wvago.gov/pdf/Complaint – Legal Helpers.pdf.