California debt law firm, management company sued for fraud

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Mar. 28, 2011, 2:37pm


MARSHALL - A recent lawsuit accuses a California law firm of scheming and conspiring to take advantage of individuals who are facing money problems.

Mary Hope, individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, filed suit against Debt Choice Inc., Lexxiom Inc., The Iniguez Law Firm PC and Miguel Iniguez on March 22 in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division.

She is seeking a minimum of $5 million.

The defendants are accused of preying on consumers who are unable to pay their debts by offering services to help reduce the debts. The lawsuit alleges the defendants actually provide no services at all but charge "unconscionable" amounts to victims in violation of Texas law.

"As an example of the Defendants' abhorrent conduct, Defendants have violated several
laws to take advantage of Plaintiff, an 87-year-old widow living on social security in East
Texas who allegedly owed $8,200 on a Chase Bank debt," the lawsuit states. "Defendants Debt Choice and Iniguez Firm solicited her in order to help her reduce the debt. In exchange for paying them over $1,750 in fees, the sole 'services' provided were two one-paragraph form letters to Plaintiff's creditors that were computer generated with electronic signatures."

Hope claims she contacted defendant Debt Choice about help with her consumer debts after viewing a television advertisement.

She said she signed two contracts -- a form contract for Debt Choice's services and a form contract for Iniguez Law Firm's services.

"Debt Choice's referral to the Iniguez Firm was a referral to a lawyer," the suit states. "The contract between Plaintiff and Debt Choice provides that Plaintiff's first payment to Iniguez Firm will be paid to Debt Choice as a referral fee.

"Under Texas law, Debt Choice was prohibited by law from accepting
money or anything of value to solicit employment for the Iniguez Firm."

According to the lawsuit, the Iniquez law firm is not licensed in the state of Texas to provide debt management services.

For $65 a month, Iniguez Law Firm the contract allowed for the firm to negotiate in an attempt to settle Hope's debts; administering, managing and reporting on Hope's funds held by Bank of America; and a subscription to the law firm's monthly newsletter.

The defendants are accused of conspiracy, breach of contract, violations of the Texas Finance Code and unjust enrichment.

The plaintiff is seeking actual damages, exemplary damages, interest, attorneys' fees and court costs.

Hope is represented by Jeffrey L. Weinstein and Bonner C. Walsh of Weinstein Law in Athens. A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge David Folsom is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:11-cv-00189

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