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MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) have filed an enforcement action in Dane County Circuit Court against Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, a/k/a the law firm of Macey, Aleman, Hyslip & Searns, as well as the company’s principal managers and owners.
According to the complaint, Legal Helpers Debt Resolution provides debt settlement services to people nationwide, including in Wisconsin. Under Wisconsin’s statute governing adjustment service companies, Wis. Stat. § 218.02, companies that negotiate with creditors on behalf of debtors must obtain a license, file certain disclosures with the Department of Financial Institutions -- Division of Banking, and limit the amount of fees they charge from debtors.
The complaint alleges that the defendants and their Chicago-based company illegally charge exorbitant upfront fees for their debt settlement services while maintaining that, as lawyers, they were not required to be licensed as an adjustment service company pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 218.02. The complaint alleges, however, that the attorneys with Legal Helpers Debt Resolution are merely a façade for the company, and the debt settlement services are fulfilled by non-lawyer, third-party companies. Consumers report they never meet an attorney, talk to an attorney and when seeking consult with an attorney about the status of their debt, are not permitted to speak with one.
According to the complaint, Legal Helpers Debt Resolution has enrolled nearly 2,000 Wisconsin consumers, charging illegal upfront fees that range from $500-$900, and monthly maintenance fees from $50.00 to more than $75.00. This has resulted in the collection of millions of dollars of illegal upfront fees from Wisconsin consumers.
The complaint asks the Court to impose forfeitures and penalties, to require restitution to consumers, and to enjoin the company from future unlawful behavior.
The case was referred to the DOJ by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Lara A. Sutherlin.
Copies of the Summons and the Complaint are available at the following links: