FTC Shuts Down Fraudulent Debt Relief Operation

For Release

The defendants behind an alleged credit card interest rate reduction scam are banned from selling debt relief services and from telemarketing any goods or services.

A federal court judge in Florida approved and signed a stipulated order against Innovative Wealth Builders, Inc., (IWB) and its three Florida-based principals: Carly Janene Pelland (also known as Carly Zurita), Sheryl Leigh Lopez, and Tamara Dawn Johnson. The defendants agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that they falsely promised to substantially reduce consumers’ credit card interest rates and save them thousands of dollars on their credit card debts.

The FTC will continue to move forward with litigation against Independant Resources Network Corp. (IRN), the payment processor that allegedly assisted and facilitated the scam. In June, the FTC amended its original complaint to name IRN as a defendant in the case.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the settling defendants, IWB and its three principals, violated the FTC Act by misrepresenting credit card interest rate reduction services, misrepresenting refund policies, and billing consumers without authorization. The complaint also alleges the defendants violated the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule by misrepresenting the debt relief services they were selling, charging a fee before providing these services, and billing consumers without their express informed consent.

The stipulated order also prohibits the settling defendants from making any material misrepresentations in connection with advertising, marketing, promotion, offering for sale, or sale of any financial related product or service. The order includes a $9.9 million judgment against IWB and its three principals.  

The Commission’s vote authorizing staff to file the stipulated final order was 4-0. The FTC filed the stipulated final order for permanent injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. The District Court judge signed and approved the order on Sept. 10, 2013.

NOTE: Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed and approved by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:

Cheryl Hackley
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2480

STAFF CONTACT:
Spencer Elg,
Southeast Regional Office
404-656-1354