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FEDERAL COURT SHUTS DOWN CREDIT-REPAIR OPERATION

LITTLE ROCK - Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today that a federal judge has shut down a Florida-based operation that offered bogus credit-repair services nationwide after the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division brought the company's activities in Arkansas to the attention of federal authorities.

Latrese and Kevin Hargrave and the companies they control are responsible for the rectangular red signs that dot Arkansas roadsides. The signs advertise a telephone number and the potential to "erase bad credit" for $250.

Those marketing efforts in Arkansas violate a 2010 federal court order against the Hargraves and their companies, which prohibited the defendants from engaging in any activities related to credit repair. The scam companies were barred at that time from making false or misleading statements to induce consumers to buy their credit-repair services, and from charging or receiving advance payments for the services.

The federal Credit Repair Organizations Act prohibits for-profit organizations from charging or accepting upfront fees for "credit repair." The FTC alleged the defendants violated that law, as well as the FTC Act, through their false credit-repair claims.

"Our Consumer Protection Division conducted an extensive investigation into this operation. Since the FTC had an existing order barring the business practices detailed in our investigation, we forwarded the results of that investigation to the FTC," McDaniel said. "I appreciate the dedicated efforts of our investigators who work on behalf of the people of Arkansas to defend them from scams such as this."

McDaniel reminded Arkansans that, ultimately, anything a credit-repair organization can legally do, consumers may also do themselves for free or for very little cost.

The newest court order against the Hargraves and their companies was issued in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Fla., on June 1. The court froze the operation's assets, seized equipment and files and placed the companies in receivership. The order remains in place as the FTC seeks a contempt ruling against the defendants for violating the original order from 2010.

McDaniel said the State's investigation into the defendants' activities in Arkansas is ongoing.

For more information about credit-repair scams or other consumer-related issues, visit the Consumer Protection Division's website, GotYourBackArkansas.org or call (800) 482-8982.

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