Local student loan debt relief company victims speak out

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Nakeia Warren and Andre Archibald are just two of more than 2,000 consumers who contacted the Federal Trade Commission to complain about Ameritech Financial, a student loan debt relief company.

According to the FTC, between 2014 and 2018 consumers paid Ameritech Financial 60 million dollars in fees in exchange for Ameritech Financial submitting documents on their behalf to loan repayment plans.

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Warren and Archibald believed the money they were paying to Ameritech Financial was going towards their student loans, but the FTC says it was not.

"I felt humiliated. I was very angry about it," said Warren.

Archibald served in the Army for 19 years and now works in counter intelligence.

"It does make you feel like you're kind of a chump," said Archibald.

Both paid thousands of dollars up front followed by recurring monthly fees.

The FTC says those upfront fees should serve as a red flag to consumers.

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"Asking you for a fee in advance of doing anything for you and by doing anything what I mean is actually providing you the debt relief services you're signing up for that is illegal," said FTC Staff Attorney Michelle Grajales.

Consumers also say Ameritech Financial encouraged them to exaggerate their family size to qualify for the loan forgiveness programs.

In February, the FTC filed a complaint against Ameritech Financial and CEO Brandon Frere outlining the alleged deceptive practices.

"I would have kept paying in ignorance had it not been for a legal notification I received," said Warren.

In Ameritech Financial's offer letter there's a disclosure at the bottom in small print. It explicitly says, the company does not assume or pay consumer debts. It also says there are many free government programs and that this is not a government program. That's information Warren says she didn't notice until after the FTC contacted her.

She then contacted the Department of Education.

"When I said Ameritech, the woman on the phone finished financial for me-- she already knew who the company was she said I have talked to so many people like you and unfortunately you've been taken advantage of like many others," said Warren.

On November 29th, the FTC filed an injunction shutting down Ameritech Financial. Brandon Frere is also now facing a criminal wire fraud charge for transferring company money to personal and offshore accounts.

Frere's attorney did not respond to a request for comment today but previously spoke to ABC7 News outside court.

"There are an awful lot of issues in this case that are going to come out as the case goes forward," said attorney Ed Swanson.

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Meantime, both Warren and Archibald are several thousand dollars further in student loan debt than when they began paying Ameritech Financial due to interest that continued to accrue on their loans.

The FTC has a list of companies and people banned from debt relief.
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