DOB: Financial Help Services - Rest-NOI-CD-CP

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IN THE MATTER OF:
 
FINANCIAL HELP SERVICES, INC.

       ("Respondent")
 
 



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  ORDER TO MAKE RESTITUTION

  NOTICE OF INTENT TO ISSUE
  ORDER TO CEASE AND DESIST

  NOTICE OF INTENT TO IMPOSE
  CIVIL PENALTY

                       AND

  NOTICE OF RIGHT TO HEARING

I. LEGAL AUTHORITY AND JURISDICTION

The Banking Commissioner (“Commissioner”) is charged with the administration of Sections 36a-655 to 36a-665, inclusive, of the Connecticut General Statutes, contained in Part II of Chapter 669 of the Connecticut General Statutes, “Debt Adjusters and Debt Negotiation”.

Pursuant to the authority granted by Section 36a-17 of the Connecticut General Statutes, the Commissioner, through the Consumer Credit Division of the Department of Banking, has investigated the activities of Respondent to determine if it has violated, is violating or is about to violate the provisions of the Connecticut General Statutes within the jurisdiction of the Commissioner.
 
Section 36a-17(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes provides, in pertinent part, that:

The commissioner, in the commissioner’s discretion, may, subject to the provisions of section 36a-21 and the Freedom of Information Act, as defined in section 1-200, (1) make such public or private investigations . . . within or outside this state, concerning any person subject to the jurisdiction of the commissioner, as the commissioner deems necessary to carry out the duties of the commissioner, (2) require or permit any person to testify, produce a record or file a statement in writing, under oath, or otherwise as the commissioner determines, as to all the facts and circumstances concerning the matter to be investigated or about which an action or proceeding is pending . . . .

Section 36a-52 of the Connecticut General Statutes provides, in pertinent part, that:

(a)  Whenever it appears to the commissioner that any person has violated, is violating or is about to violate any provision of the general statutes within the jurisdiction of the commissioner, . . . the commissioner may send a notice to such person by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, or by any express delivery carrier that provides a dated delivery receipt.  The notice shall be deemed received by the person on the earlier of the date of actual receipt, or seven days after mailing or sending.  Any such notice shall include:  (1) A statement of the time, place, and nature of the hearing; (2) a statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing is to be held; (3) a reference to the particular sections of the general statutes . . . alleged to have been violated; (4) a short and plain statement of the matters asserted; and (5) a statement indicating that such person may file a written request for a hearing on the matters asserted within fourteen days of receipt of the notice.  If a hearing is requested within the time specified in the notice, the commissioner shall hold a hearing upon the matters asserted in the notice, unless the person fails to appear at the hearing.  After the hearing, the commissioner shall determine whether an order to cease and desist should be issued against the person named in the notice.  If the person does not request a hearing within the time specified in the notice or fails to appear at the hearing, the commissioner shall issue an order to cease and desist against the person.  No such order shall be issued except in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54.

Section 36a-50 of the Connecticut General Statutes provides, in pertinent part, that:

(a)(1)  Whenever the commissioner finds as the result of an investigation that any person has violated any provision of the general statutes within the jurisdiction of the commissioner, . . . the commissioner may send a notice to such person by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, or by any express delivery carrier that provides a dated delivery receipt.  The notice shall be deemed received by the person on the earlier of the date of actual receipt or seven days after mailing or sending.  Any such notice shall include:  (A) A statement of the time, place, and nature of the hearing; (B) a statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing is to be held; (C) a reference to the particular sections of the general statutes . . . alleged to have been violated; (D) a short and plain statement of the matters asserted; (E) the maximum penalty that may be imposed for such violation; and (F) a statement indicating that such person may file a written request for a hearing on the matters asserted not later than fourteen days after receipt of the notice.

(2)  If a hearing is requested within the time specified in the notice, the commissioner shall hold a hearing upon the matters asserted in the notice unless such person fails to appear at the hearing.  After the hearing, if the commissioner finds that the person has violated any such provision, . . . the commissioner may, in the commissioner’s discretion and in addition to any other remedy authorized by law, order that a civil penalty not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars per violation be imposed upon such person.  If such person does not request a hearing within the time specified in the notice or fails to appear at the hearing, the commissioner may, as the facts require, order that a civil penalty not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars per violation be imposed upon such person.

(3)  Each action undertaken by the commissioner under this subsection shall be in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54. . . .

(c)  Whenever the commissioner finds as the result of an investigation that any person has violated any provision of the general statutes within the jurisdiction of the commissioner, . . . the commissioner may, in addition to any other remedy authorized by law, order such person to (1) make restitution of any sums shown to have been obtained in violation of any such provision . . . plus interest at the legal rate set forth in section 37-1 . . . .  After the commissioner issues such an order, the person named in the order may, not later than fourteen days after receipt of such order, file a written request for a hearing.  The order shall be deemed received by the person on the earlier of the date of actual receipt or seven days after mailing or sending.  Any such hearing shall be held in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54.

II.  MATTERS ASSERTED

1.
Respondent is a corporation organized under the laws of Arkansas with offices located at 6400 North Andrews Avenue, Suite 530, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and 9045 La Fontana Boulevard, Suite 112-4, Boca Raton, Florida.
2.
On or about August 15, 2013, a Connecticut debtor executed a Client Agreement (“Client Agreement”) pursuant to which Respondent agreed, inter alia, to “distribut[e] monthly payments to the CLIENT’s Creditors under the Program”.  The Client Agreement also provided that “[t]here is a monthly maintenance fee of $24, which covers the monthly Accounting, payment distributions, data processing, and Account service”.
3.
In connection with the Client Agreement, the Connecticut debtor transmitted no less than $3,474 to Respondent for distribution to the debtor’s creditors.
4.
At no time relevant hereto has Respondent been licensed to engage in the business of debt adjustment in this state.

III.  STATUTORY BASIS FOR ORDER TO MAKE RESTITUTION,
ORDER TO CEASE AND DESIST AND IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PENALTY

Section 36a-656(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes provides, in pertinent part, that:

No person shall engage in the business of debt adjustment in this state without a debt adjuster license. . . .

Section 36a-655 of the Connecticut General Statutes provides, in pertinent part, that:

“[D]ebt adjustment” means, for or with the expectation of a fee, commission or other valuable consideration, receiving, as agent of a debtor, money or evidences thereof for the purpose of distributing such money or evidences thereof among creditors in full or partial payment of obligations of the debtor . . . .

Section 36a-657(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes provides, in pertinent part, that:

Whenever it appears to the commissioner that any person has violated, is violating or is about to violate the provisions of sections 36a-655 to 36a-665, inclusive, . . . the commissioner may take action against such person . . . in accordance with sections 36a-50 and 36a-52.

Respondent’s receipt of money from a Connecticut debtor for the purpose of distributing such money to creditors of the Connecticut debtor without the requisite license, as more fully described in paragraphs 2 through 4, inclusive, of the Matters Asserted, constitutes a violation of Section 36a-656(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes.  Such violation forms the basis to issue an order to make restitution pursuant to Sections 36a-657(b) and 36a-50(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes, issue an order to cease and desist pursuant to Sections 36a-657(b) and 36a-52(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes, and impose a civil penalty pursuant to Sections 36a-657(b) and 36a-50(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes.  Section 36a-50(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes authorizes the Commissioner to impose a civil penalty upon Respondent in an amount not to exceed One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per violation.

IV.  ORDER TO MAKE RESTITUTION, NOTICE OF INTENT TO ISSUE
ORDER TO CEASE AND DESIST, NOTICE OF INTENT TO IMPOSE
CIVIL PENALTY AND NOTICE OF RIGHT TO HEARING

WHEREAS, the Commissioner has reason to believe that Respondent has engaged in acts or conduct which forms the basis to issue an order to make restitution pursuant to Sections 36a-657(b) and 36a-50(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes, issue an order to cease and desist pursuant to Sections 36a-657(b) and 36a-52(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes, and impose a civil penalty upon Respondent pursuant to Sections 36a-657(b) and 36a-50(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes.

THE COMMISSIONER THEREFORE ORDERS, pursuant to Section 36a-50(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes, that Financial Help Services, Inc., MAKE RESTITUTION of any sums obtained as a result of Financial Help Services, Inc., violating Section 36a-656(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes, plus interest at the legal rate set forth in Section 37-1 of the Connecticut General Statutes.  Specifically, the Commissioner ORDERS that:  Not later than thirty (30) days from the date this Order to Make Restitution becomes permanent, Financial Help Services, Inc., shall:

1.
Repay $3,474 to the Connecticut debtor identified in the attached Exhibit A plus interest and repay to any other Connecticut debtor who entered into an agreement for debt adjustment services in this state with Financial Help Services, Inc., any fees paid by such Connecticut debtor to Financial Help Services, Inc., plus interest.  Payments shall be made by cashier’s check, certified check or money order; and
2.
Provide evidence of such repayments to Carmine Costa, Director, Consumer Credit Division, Department of Banking, 260 Constitution Plaza, Hartford, Connecticut 06103-1800, or carmine.costa@ct.gov.

NOW THEREFORE, notice is hereby given to Respondent that the Commissioner intends to issue an order requiring Respondent to CEASE AND DESIST from violating Section 36a-656(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes, and impose a CIVIL PENALTY upon Respondent, as set forth herein, subject to Respondent’s right to a hearing on the allegation set forth above.

A hearing will be granted to Respondent if a written request for a hearing is received by the Department of Banking, Consumer Credit Division, 260 Constitution Plaza, Hartford, Connecticut 06103 1800 within fourteen (14) days following Respondent’s receipt of this Order to Make Restitution, Notice of Intent to Issue Order to Cease and Desist, Notice of Intent to Impose Civil Penalty and Notice of Right to Hearing as set forth in Section 36a-52(a) and subsections (a) and (c) of Section 36a-50(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes.  This Order to Make Restitution, Notice of Intent to Issue Order to Cease and Desist, Notice of Intent to Impose Civil Penalty and Notice of Right to Hearing shall be deemed received on the earlier of the date of actual receipt, or seven days after mailing or sending.  To request a hearing, complete and return the enclosed Appearance and Request for Hearing Form to the above address.  If Respondent will not be represented by an attorney at the hearing, please complete the Appearance and Request for Hearing Form as “pro se”.  Once a written request for a hearing is received, the Commissioner may issue a notification of hearing and designation of hearing officer that acknowledges receipt of a request for a hearing, designates a hearing officer and sets the date of the hearing in accordance with Section 4-177 of the Connecticut General Statutes and Section 36a-1-21 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.  If a hearing is requested, the hearing will be held on January 12, 2016, at 10 a.m., at the Department of Banking, 260 Constitution Plaza, Hartford, Connecticut.

The hearing will be held in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 54 of the Connecticut General Statutes, unless Respondent fails to appear at the requested hearing.  At such hearing, Respondent will have the right to appear and present evidence, rebuttal evidence and argument on all issues of fact and law to be considered by the Commissioner.
 
If Respondent does not request a hearing within the time period prescribed or fails to appear at any such hearing the allegation herein will be deemed admitted.  Accordingly, the Order to Make Restitution shall remain in effect and become permanent against Respondent, and the Commissioner will issue an order that Respondent cease and desist from violating Section 36a-656(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes, and may order a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per violation be imposed upon Respondent.

So ordered at Hartford, Connecticut
this 23rd day of November 2015.                        ________/s/_________
                                                                    Jorge L. Perez
                                                                    Banking Commissioner


CERTIFICATION

I hereby certify that on this 23rd day of November 2015, I caused the foregoing Order to Make Restitution, Notice of Intent to Issue Order to Cease and Desist, Notice of Intent to Impose Civil Penalty and Notice of Right to Hearing to be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, to Financial Help Services, Inc., 6400 North Andrews Avenue, Suite 530, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33309, certified mail no. 70143490000235259701; and 9045 La Fontana Boulevard, Suite 112-4 Boca Raton, Florida 33434, certified mail no. 70143490000235259718; to its registered agents, Financial Help Services, Inc., c/o Business Filings Incorp, 124 West Capitol Avenue, Suite 1900, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201, certified mail no. 70143490000235259725; and to Bobby Blackmon, 2455 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 117, Hollywood, Florida 33020, certified mail no. 70133020000042267650.

                                                                    ________/s/_________
                                                                    Amy Grillo
                                                                    Secretary


Administrative Orders and Settlements