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FTC settles with Rockville companies over false debt relief claims

Three Rockville companies and their owner have agreed to pay $500,000 and stop offering debt relief services as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Media Innovations LLC, Hermosa Group LLC, Financial Future Network LLC and their owner, Jonathan Greenberg, advertised debt relief but instead sold consumer leads to debt settlement companies, according to the FTC.

The settlement was announced Thursday, the same day the FTC requested an injunction against the companies and Greenberg in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

The companies had aired advertisements on English and Spanish radio and television since January 2007 making claims such as “Settle Your Debt For Less Than You Owe!” and “Find out today how quickly and easily you can eliminate your debt,” according to the complaint. Third-party companies paid between $50 and $65 per lead.

“Defendants do not provide debt settlement services to consumers, do not enroll consumers in debt settlement programs and do not collect any fees from consumers,” the complaint states.

The stipulated final judgment and order filed Thursday — which still must be approved by a judge — imposes an $8.5 million judgment against the three companies that will be suspended when the $500,000 is paid. It also prohibits them from “disclosing or otherwise benefitting” from the personal information they have collected.

Greenberg referred a phone call on Friday to his Florida-based lawyer, Robby H. Birnbaum, who was unable to respond to questions by press time.