As noted in the parties’ Joint Motion for Entry of Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 89) and the Court’s Order dated October 6, 2022 (Doc. 103), the parties made significant progress toward settlement of the FTC’s claims against the defendants during and subsequent to the mediation conference held with Magistrate Judge Monte Richardson. The Court has entered a Preliminary Injunction, the language of which is similar to the Temporary Restraining Order entered at the beginning of the case. Additionally, the Court has entered a stay of the case (except for the Receiver’s efforts)(Doc. 106), during which time the FTC lawyers have sought approval of the negotiated settlement from the Federal Trade Commission. Assuming that the settlement is approved by the FTC and subsequently by the Court, the Receiver will continue her efforts to marshal and liquidate assets for the benefit of aggrieved consumers and other creditors. Thereafter, the FTC will handle the distribution process of the funds collected for consumers. Any distribution will not occur until 2023 at the earliest.
Order Cancelling Evidentiary Hearing and Setting Zoom Videoconference on September 21, 2022.
Click here to view court document.
Joint motion for entry of stipulated preliminary injunction as to all defendants.
Click here to view court document.
The Court has scheduled a two day evidentiary hearing on the FTC’s pending motion for preliminary injunction for September 21-22, 2022. Each side, the FTC and Defendants, will have one day to present their case. The Parties are required to file a Witness and Exhibit List no later than September 7, 2022. Until the Court rules on the motion for preliminary injunction, the Temporary Restraining Order remains in place.
On Friday June 17th, the Court held a hearing on the FTC’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The Court received deposition transcripts from the FTC and the Defendants as part of their arguments to the Court. Also at the hearing, the Court heard argument regarding the Defendants’ request to modify the asset freeze to access funds to pay their attorneys. Defendants’ request [Doc. 51] and the FTC’s opposition [Doc. 56] can be found under the Court Filings tab. Both of these motions are still pending.
Also at the hearing, the Court encouraged the Parties to schedule and conduct a settlement conference. To that end, the FTC and the Defendants submitted a proposed schedule for that process which will culminate in a settlement conference with a magistrate judge in mid to late July. [Doc. 60]
The Receiver is well aware that many customers have questions and concerns about if and when they may receive any monies from their purchases from the Defendants. However, this case is still in its infancy, so it would be premature to be able to answer these types of questions.
The Receiver would encourage those with an interest in the case to read the Receiver’s First Interim Report (filed June 13, 2022) by clicking this link. Also, you may register under the Registration tab so that the Receiver has your current contact information.
View the Receiver’s First Interim Report.
Many consumers recently received a copy of the TRO entered by the Court in the FTC action against Michael and Valerie Rando and their various corporate entities, including The Credit Game University (“the Defendants”). As part of the Court’s Order, the Defendants were required to send that Order to you. You as consumers have no obligations under the TRO.
As part of the Court’s TRO, the Court appointed Maria M. Yip as Receiver over the Corporate Defendants, meaning she now stands in the shoes of these entities. However, she is not representing the Randos or their interests in this case. Rather, it is her job to marshal the assets of the Receivership Entities and report to the Court as to whether the businesses can be run legally and profitably. She will file her first report with the Court on June 13, 2022, just prior to the Court’s hearing on the FTC’s motion for preliminary injunction which will be held on June 17, 2022.
As former or current customers of the Credit Game University (or affiliated entities), what do you do now?
- You can always check on this website for new information as events unfold or papers are filed with the Court.
- Also, please go to the Registration tab and register. This will confirm that the Receiver has your contact information. It would be helpful, although not required, if you provide as much information as possible in the fields titled “Item(s) Purchased” and “Comments/Complaints”. This would include what you purchased, how much it cost and if/how the product/service might have been misrepresented to you.
- If the Court grants the Preliminary Injunction, the Receiver will continue her efforts to marshal the assets of the companies to ultimately be distributed to victimized consumers. It is difficult to project when any claims/distribution process would begin, so please understand that this process will take some time to begin and eventually result in distributions.
The FTC’s latest credit repair case alleges that the creators of The Credit Game falsely promised to help people quickly boost their credit scores and misled them to think they could make millions by running their own credit repair companies. The defendants even went so far as to urge people to invest their COVID-19 government benefits in this supposed money-making opportunity.
The lawsuit charges Michael Rando, his wife, Valerie Rando, and seven of their companies with violating multiple consumer protection laws, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). At the FTC’s request, a federal court has frozen the defendants’ assets, appointed a receiver, and ordered them to cease their allegedly illegal operations pending further proceedings in the case.
According to the complaint, the Florida-based defendants have operated an unlawful credit repair business since at least 2019, first under the name Wholesale Tradelines, then as The Credit Game. It alleges that through YouTube videos, websites, emails, and telemarketing, they falsely claimed they could boost peoples’ credit scores by hundreds of points in as little as 45 days, remove negative items from a credit report, and cause a third party’s positive credit history to appear on — and improve — someone’s poor credit report through a practice known as “credit piggybacking.”
But the FTC says the defendants misled and deceived people: credit repair companies can’t legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. And, the FTC says, the defendants’ “services” included filing bogus identity theft reports with the FTC that falsely claimed that people’s debts resulted from identity theft, providing false information to credit bureaus, and encouraging their customers to lie to credit bureaus, all of which is illegal.
In addition, the complaint charges the defendants pitched a bogus business opportunity for people to set up credit repair companies of their own. As part of their sales pitch, they allegedly used false and misleading earnings claims, telling one undercover FTC investigator they could make “tens of thousands” of dollars every month. According to the complaint, the defendants urged people to “invest” their government COVID-19 benefits — stimulus checks and child tax credits — in the supposed opportunity.
Article By Seena Gressin
Company Illegally Charged Consumers for Credit Advice, Filed False ID Theft Reports and Pitched Them on Fake Business Opportunity
At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court has temporarily halted a bogus credit repair scheme known as The Credit Game for promoting a series of lies and deceptions. The FTC alleged the scheme’s operators lied to credit reporting agencies regarding information on consumers’ credit reports and pitched consumers a supposed business opportunity that was essentially starting their own bogus credit repair scheme.
“Credit repair schemes cheat those already in financial trouble, and these defendants even tried to redirect COVID-19 tax benefits into their own pockets,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We’re grateful that the court shut this scheme down and disrupted this web of deception.”
In a complaint filed against The Credit Game and its owners, Michael and Valerie Rando, the FTC alleged that the company has illegally charged consumers hundreds and even thousands of dollars for credit repair services of little to no value and told consumers to “invest” their COVID-19 governmental benefits on their unlawful services. In some cases, the company’s “services” included filing false identity theft reports with the FTC and encouraging consumers to take actions that were unlawful. The FTC asked the court to immediately halt the company’s illegal operations, appoint a receiver, and freeze the defendants’ assets. The court issued a temporary restraining order doing so on May 3, 2022.
In addition to the core credit repair scheme, the defendants have also taken advantage of the ongoing pandemic by telling consumers to “invest” pandemic tax benefits into their credit repair schemes. One advertisement used the headline “Free Credit Repair From The Government.”
The defendants are based in Florida and have operated credit repair schemes since at least 2019, first using the name Wholesale Tradelines before changing to The Credit Game in 2020. According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants claim to have brought in more than $15 million in business through their operations.
In its complaint filed against The Credit Game and the Randos, the FTC alleges the defendants’ deceptive tactics violated the FTC Act, the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), the Business Opportunity Rule, the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), and the Covid Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). This includes:
- Deceptive marketing: The defendants mislead consumers in numerous ways, including lying to consumers about whether their products are legal, whether their products are effective, and whether consumers can get refunds when requested.
- Credit piggybacking: The complaint alleges that the defendants pitch a practice known as credit piggybacking. In a piggybacking scheme, a consumer seeking to raise their credit scores pays to be added as an “authorized user” to a credit card account belonging to someone with higher credit. However, the consumer is an “authorized user” in name only and does not have actual access to the account or line of credit.
- Filing false identity theft reports: As part of their efforts to remove accurate but negative information from consumers’ credit reports, the defendants filed thousands of false identity theft reports on behalf of consumers with the FTC. Knowingly filing a false identity theft report with the FTC is unlawful.
- Bogus business opportunity: In addition to selling the bogus credit repair services, the defendants also pitch consumers on a supposed business opportunity that consists of reselling the defendants’ own unlawful credit repair services. They use outlandish earnings claims as part of the sales pitch, telling one undercover FTC investigator they could make “tens of thousands” of dollars every month.
- Illegal advance fees: The defendants charge consumers for their credit repair services upfront, often thousands of dollars, using high-pressure sales tactics and failing to give consumers required information before they are pressured to buy. Charging advance fees for credit repair services is illegal.
In addition, the FTC’s investigation found that the defendants had purchased a tradeline database from previous FTC defendants William Airy and BMS, Inc., who were sued by the FTC for operating a bogus credit repair scheme in 2020, and that the Randos were aware of the FTC’s investigation into Airy and BMS when they bought the tradeline database.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and request for temporary restraining order was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Learn more about consumer topics at consumer.ftc.gov, or report fraud, scams, and bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Follow the FTC on social media, read consumer alerts and the business blog, and sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts.