FTC Refunds More Than $120,000 Lost by Consumers in Advance-Fee Loan Scam

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For Release

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday began distributing to 4,932 consumers more than $120,000 it obtained in a case against Southland Consultants. In August 1994, the FTC charged Christopher Puma, doing business as Southland Consultants, and Jeanette Puma, with falsely representing to consumers that they would receive loans upon payment of an advance fee -- typically between $149 and $189 -- and with misrepresenting the company's refund policy.

The FTC obtained approximately $81,000 in the settlement with the defendants. Additional funds were obtained as a result of a criminal charges involving the same business practices brought against the defendants by the District Attorney's Office in Riverside County, California. (Defendant Christopher Puma is currently serving 120 days in the Riverside County jail and was given three years probation. Jeanette Puma was also given three years probation.) The District Attorney's Office provided valuable assistance to the FTC.

The FTC's case was handled jointly by the Division of Service Industry Practices and the Los Angeles Regional Office. Copies of documents associated with this case are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov

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