Attorney General's News Release
January 13, 2005
Attorney General's "Operation Shark Net" takes on financial scams with legal actions filed around Missouri
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today took legal action in courts around the state to combat a variety of financial scams against consumers. The nine cases, part of a concerted effort dubbed "Operation Shark Net," are targeting those alleged to have perpetrated scams ranging from securities fraud to financing schemes to fraudulent promises to clean up bad credit histories.
"The financial sharks are trolling Missouri waters, looking for victims to separate from their money," Nixon said. "Consumers are best advised to be skeptical of promises and offers that sound too good to be true, and always know who you are doing business with."
Nixon's office filed these actions today:
- Greene County Circuit Court: Criminal charges filed against Springfield insurance agent George W. Hull. Hull is charged with two counts of selling unregistered securities and two counts of selling securities without being registered with the state. He allegedly took at least $100,000 from investors who were promised a 12 percent rate of return.
- Christian County Circuit Court: A lawsuit filed against Vicki L. Hartwig, of Nixa, and Joseph L. Potter, of Clever, both doing business as Kleen Credit in Nixa. Hartwig and Potter allegedly sold credit repair services, with fees ranging from $2,160 to $2,250, and failed to deliver services that were promised.
- Christian County Circuit Court: A lawsuit filed against American Investments of Springfield, which does business as Kleen Credit, and salesman Wilson Daniel Moss, of Palmyra. The suit alleges that defendants illegally charged advance fees of as much as to $7,000 in return for promises to improve the credit score of consumers. Consumers who followed the advice of the defendants not only lost the fee they paid, but ended up with worse credit problems.
- Jackson County Circuit Court: A lawsuit filed against John K. Harris of North Charleston, S.C., who does business under the names JKH Holding, JK Harris & Company, JK Harris Financial Recovery Systems and JK Harris Advisors. The suit alleges that through an Internet Web site and a toll-free telephone number, Harris offered to help consumers "get the IRS off your back." At least nine Missourians from throughout the state paid from $390 to $2,700 for services that were not delivered.
- Jackson County Circuit Court: A lawsuit filed against Jason E. Branch Sr. and Karen Weathers, both of Kansas City, doing business as J.E. Capital Group, Global Funding Group and Covenant Ministries International. The two are alleged to have offered, for a fee ranging from $1,995 to $20,000, to arrange a line of credit or approve mortgage financing to help consumers create wealth through real estate investments. The lawsuit says the pair refused to issue refunds after failing to deliver on their promises.
- Adair County Circuit Court: A lawsuit filed against Willadean Walker, of Kirksville, and Mervin J. Walker, of Greentop, and their business, Walker Mobile Home Sales, located in Kirksville. The lawsuit states that consumers who intended to purchase mobile homes from the business paid deposits ranging from $1,000 to $11,000 and would then seek financing. Consumers who were unable to obtain financing for the rest of the purchase often found that the defendants refused to refund the deposits.
- St. Louis County Circuit Court: A lawsuit filed against Ricks Galloway, of Florissant, and Wayne A. Brown, of St. Louis County, doing business as Ricks Galloway the Mortgage Man, First Finance Mortgage and Maverick Capital Finance. The two are alleged to have misrepresented the fees they required consumers to pay for securing home mortgages, home refinancing, and for sale of real estate; failed to provided services as promised; and engaged in deceptive advertising.
- Franklin County Circuit Court: A lawsuit filed against Consumer Grants USA, of St. Petersburg, Fla., doing business as Ultimate Funding and Customer Care Plus; and Your Choice Inc., of St. George, Utah. The lawsuit alleges that during telemarketing calls to consumers, defendants would tell consumers they qualified for a government grant. Upon paying a fee of up to $259, consumers would receive a grant application — an application they could have received for free from the U.S. government. It is also alleged that the defendants used deceptive means to obtain access to consumers' personal checking account information, and withdrew money from their accounts.
- Cole County Circuit Court: An assurance of voluntary compliance filed that requires Encore Financial Group, of St. George, Utah, to cease any improper or deceptive advertising involving credit repair offers, to cooperate with Nixon's office, and to refund $199.95 to a consumer who signed up for the credit repair program.
Nixon said that no organization can "clean up" negative — but accurate — information off a credit report. Consumers can send a letter to the three major credit bureaus in order to remove inaccurate information; they do not have to pay a so-called "consultant" hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Nixon is asking the courts in each jurisdiction where actions were filed to order the defendants to cease any fraudulent practices, pay restitution to any victims, and pay monetary civil penalties in cases where civil lawsuits were filed.
In the criminal charges filed in Greene County, George W. Hull faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine on each count, if convicted.
The charges against Hull are merely accusations and, as in all criminal cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until or unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Inquiries from consumers should be directed to email@example.com or 1-800-392-8222 (from within Missouri) or 573-751-3321 (outside Missouri).
All media inquiries should be directed to the Press Secretary.
E-mail Phone: 573-751-8844 Fax: 573-751-5818