Updated: January 14, 2021 08:38 PM
Created: January 14, 2021 08:33 PM
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Thursday that his office has obtained a settlement that requires a California student-loan debt relief company that illegally collected fees from customers and misrepresented its services to consumers to cease operating in Minnesota and provide full refunds to its Minnesota consumers.
According to Ellison's office, Document Assist Center — a company based in Stanton, Calif. — allegedly falsely promised consumers student-loan forgiveness, when the federal government can forgive federal student loans. Ellison alleges that in reality, all the company did was enroll consumers in federal repayment programs that consumers can enroll themselves in for free, then pocketed both initial and monthly fees for doing so.
The company also collected its fees upfront before performing the promised services, which is illegal under Minnesota law regulating debt settlement services. Additionally, Document Assist Center was operating without registering as a debt settlement service provider, as required by Minnesota law.
The settlement, filed in Ramsey County District Court, requires Document Assist Center to immediately pay the state $11,499— the full amount it has collected but not otherwise refunded its Minnesota customers— which the attorney general's office says will use to provide full restitution to those affected. The settlement also requires Document Assist Center to cease operating in the state unless and until it registers as a debt settlement service provider.
"Minnesotans take out student loans in good faith so they can get educations that will help them better afford their lives. My office is showing once again that when companies take advantage of that good faith to rip Minnesotans off, we will come after them," Ellison said. "I encourage any Minnesotan who's been preyed upon by this company or others like it to contact my office so we can hold these bad actors accountable."
Student-loan debt-relief companies often charge consumers hundreds or thousands of dollars of illegal upfront fees to enroll them in repayment plans or consolidation loans that all eligible federal student-loan borrowers can apply for on their own for free through the United States Department of Education. Often, these companies deceive consumers into believing that the fees will go toward paying down the consumers' student-loan debt, when the companies actually pocket the fees.
Ellison encourages anyone who has been victimized by Document Assist Center and wishes to claim payment of their refund to contact the attorney general's office by calling 651-296-3353 (metro area) or 800-657-3787 (Greater Minnesota), or by submitting a complaint form on the attorney's general's website.
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