Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

1 hour ago
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Editor's note: This report contains accounts of rape, violence and other disturbing events.

Sex trafficking wasn't a major concern in the early 1980s, when Beth Jacobs was a teenager. If you were a prostitute, the thinking went, it was your choice.

Jacobs thought that too, right up until she came to, on the lot of a dark truck stop one night. She says she had asked a friendly-seeming man for a ride home that afternoon.

The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Pages

Feds Say Debt Settlement Firm Defrauded 'Financially Desperate'

May 7, 2013
Originally published on May 7, 2013 4:33 pm

The work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal oversight agency established by Dodd-Frank three years ago, has resulted in its first criminal referral — a case against a debt-settlement company it says defrauded thousands of people.

According to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Mission Settlement Agency, its manager and three employees have been charged with mail and wire fraud. Prosecutors say the defendants "systematically exploited and defrauded" their clients, who were seeking to settle credit card and other debt.

The debt-collection firm preyed on the "financial desperation of individuals struggling to pay their credit card debts" by "falsely and fraudulently" tricking them, the indictment said.

On Mission Settlement's website, the company says it was "founded to help people regain control of their personal finance" and claims to take "an honest, informational approach to helping people find the best solution to their debt problems."

The indictment says that from mid-2009 to March of this year, some 2,200 customers paid about $14 million for Mission Settlement's services but that only $4.4 million went to creditors — the rest was kept by the company as fees. The company further took fees of $2.2 million from more than 1,200 customers and, according to the indictment, "never paid a single penny" to creditors.

Prosecutors say manager Michael Levitis, who was named as a defendant, used customer money to pay expenses for a restaurant-nightclub he owned and leases for two luxury Mercedes-Benzes, according to Reuters.

Bloomberg says:

"Mission and its employees lied about its fees, taking thousands of dollars from funds that its customers had set aside because they believed the money would be used to pay creditors, according to the indictment. For the majority of customers, Mission did little or no work and failed to reduce debt, prosecutors said."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.