North Carolina service men and women who were charged unfair prices for electronics will have their debts forgiven as part of a $6.8 million settlement announced Tuesday by state Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Cooper’s office reached the settlement with Rome Finance, which also did business under Colfax Capital Corporation and Culver Capital, LLC. Rome Finance has been liquidated and its owners, Ronald Wilson and William Collins, have been banned from the consumer lending business as part of the settlement.
The companies financed debt for people who were overcharged for computers, televisions and gaming systems, among other electronics, by Fayetteville-based SmartBuy, which had locations near Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. The store used aggressive sales tactics to push items priced sometimes two or three times higher than their real value, Cooper’s office alleged. Cooper contends that service men and women were targeted by SmartBuy partly because those stationed at military bases are often young, financially inexperienced and have disposable income for the first time.
“The brave men and women who serve our country in the military should not have to worry about being taken advantage of by shady businesses here at home,” Cooper said in a statement.
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Confusing paperwork used by Rome, Colfax and Culver made buyers on the hook for paying about 200 percent in interest, far more than what is allowed in North Carolina, the AG’s office said. Customers were then faced with poor credit and astounding debt. Victims’ credit histories will be cleared as part of the settlement.
The scam was nationwide; SmartBuy had locations near military bases around the country. Of the 17,000 customers affected by the settlement, 1,328 are North Carolina enlisted residents who owed $6,852,092 in debt. The total debt being forgiven is $19 million.
Collections on this debt cease with the agreement and consumers can keep the items they bought.