Friday, June 29, 2007

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Attorney General Abbott Secures Judgment to Shut Down Unlicensed Payday Lender

EL PASO – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott secured a court judgment against Advance Internet, also known as Texas Advance Internet, an unlicensed payday lender. The court judgment prohibits the El Paso-based company from continuing its unlawful predatory lending activities.

According to court documents, Advance Internet’s owner, John A. Gill Jr., used the guise of on-premises Internet access and “instant cash” to lure consumers into a payday lending scheme. Advance Internet’s customers, many of whom were military families, were essentially tricked into entering into fraudulent high-interest contracts.

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Attorney General's final summary judgment against Advance Internet

“Texans will not tolerate predatory schemes to defraud military families,” Attorney General Abbott said. “With this judgment, these defendants are prohibited from continuing their unconscionable scheme. The Office of the Attorney General will continue to aggressively enforce the law.”

In 2006, Attorney General Abbott charged the defendants with violating numerous provisions of Texas consumer finance laws, including provisions requiring lenders to obtain proper licenses before making loans. The laws also presume that usurious interest contracts like those written by Advance Internet are null and void.

The company tricked consumers into schemes with interest rates as high as 782 percent for short-term cash advance loans. The result was an unending cycle of debt for Advance Internet customers. Texas Advance Internet maintained offices in El Paso, Coryell, Bell and Bexar counties, all counties with military bases in close proximity.

Gill’s Internet “rebate” program was a subterfuge used to hook consumers into debt. Customers who signed up were given an immediate $100 “rebate” that was followed by Advance Internet making monthly withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts. These withdrawals continued until the amount, further burdened by exorbitant interest, was repaid. Consumers who elected to pay off the “rebate” early were told they would be assessed a “termination fee” equal to the original amount of the rebate.

Consumers who believe they have been targeted by a deceptive lender may file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General, toll-free, at (800) 252-8011 or access the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov