A Margate debt consolidation company has agreed to refund $595,000 to about 500 consumers in a settlement announced by the Florida Attorney General's Office on Wednesday.
United Financial Systems, Inc. and its principal, Christopher Boulahanis agreed to the settlement, that averages out to about $1,200 per complaining customer, to resolve an investigation into the company’s failure to provide consumers promised refunds.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said she was pleased to get the restitution for the customers.
"The people who sought financial relief from this debt consolidation company were already facing difficult financial times, which were exacerbated when the company failed to refund their money,'' she said.
United Financial Systems ceased credit counseling in December 2010.
If the company doesn't make timely payments. then it will face a court-ordered judgment for the refunds plus another $500,000 in civil penalties.
The settlement also prevents United Financial and employees from doing credit counseling, debt management or debt consolidation in Florida.
The settlement monies will be distributed to the defrauded consumers by the Office of the Florida Attorney General in two payments: a partial payment March 31 and a final one six months later, Sept. 30.
All affected consumers must submit a sworn affidavit documenting the amount of their loss postmarked by Jan. 20.
Any consumers who believe they were defrauded by United Financial Systems should call the Florida Attorney General’s Office immediately if they have not submitted an affidavit. Consumers can download an affidavit form at http://www.myfloridalegal.com/UnitedFinancialSystems .
Or consumers can call the Economic Crimes Division at 954-712-4600.
The state's fraud hot line is at email@example.com, 954-356-4404 or Twitter @donnagehrke