Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

“Daily News: Schneiderman Settles Score For Soldiers Duped By Predatory Lender”

March 31, 2017

As published by The New York Daily News on March 22, 2017.

ALBANY — The State attorney general on Wednesday announced a settlement with a company accused of ripping off military members from New York.

The settlement with Freedom Stores, a now-defunct Virginia-based retailer and financing firm, grants zero balances to more than 250 finance accounts of New York soldiers who owed the company as much as $8,600, according to AG Eric Schneiderman.

Under the $540,000 settlement, any judgments against the soldiers by the company will be eliminated, and negative trade lines will be removed with credit reporting bureaus.

“Freedom Stores took advantage of service members using deceptive practices, roping them into high interest contracts and ruining their credit — and sometimes their military careers,” Schneiderman said.

The AG charged that Freedom Stores had a larger scheme to defraud service members by deceptively selling them consumer goods at inflated prices.

The company then locked the soldiers into revolving credit agreements with undisclosed fees and high interest rates paid directly from their military paychecks or personal bank and credit accounts to unlicensed lenders, he said.

The debts were aggressively pursued by Freedom.

Schneiderman called the actions “nothing short of unconscionable.”

Though Freedom Stores stopped doing business in 2015, it kept collecting money owed before that date, he said. The settlement now leaves the New York soldiers free and clear, he said.

Jean Noonan, the lawyer representing Freedom Stores, said “we believe our operations were in full compliance with the law, but we care a lot about our customers and we’re happy to take this action on behalf of them and to resolve the matter in a friendly way with the New York attorney general.”