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December 12, 2013

LITTLE ROCK – A federal judge this week found the owners of a Florida company in violation of multiple state and federal telemarketing laws and ordered the company to pay $100,000 in civil penalties, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today.

U.S. District Judge James Moody issued a default judgment against Brenda Helfenstine and Antonio Helfenstine, who operate Financial Ladder Inc. of St. Cloud, Fla. Financial Ladder was accused of making automated, prerecorded calls, known as “robocalls,” to Arkansas consumers with the promise of reducing interest rates on credit cards. However, the company never intended to provide permanent interest-rate reductions, nor did it have any more ability to do so than consumers themselves.

Moody found the defendants in violation of the federal Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, the federal Telemarketing Sales Rules, the Arkansas Consumer Telephone Privacy Act, the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Advance Fee Loan Brokerage Act.

“Not only did this company annoy Arkansas consumers through its illegal telephone marketing, it also failed to provide any assistance whatsoever to those who paid for the company’s advertised services,” McDaniel said. “Though Financial Ladder disguised its phone number when contacting Arkansans, our Consumer Protection Division worked to track down the individuals responsible and hold them accountable for their illegal actions.”

Antonio Helfenstine and Brenda Helfenstine were ordered to pay $3,395.90 in restitution to consumers and $4,500 in attorneys’ fees and costs in addition to the $100,000 in civil penalties.

Financial Ladder was among five companies that McDaniel sued in 2012 for engaging in tactics that violated federal and state law and making multiple calls to numbers listed on the federal “Do Not Call” registry.

Financial Ladder and another company, Associated Accounting Specialists, Inc., were accused of taking money from consumers but never providing interest-rate relief that was offered. Three others companies were accused of transferring consumers’ existing credit-card debt onto cards that consumers had never requested. The new card provided only temporary reductions in interest rates before the rate was increased to the same level or even higher than the old card.

In September, Kenneth Sallies of Winter Springs, Fla., was ordered to pay $20,000 in penalties and $4,500 in costs. Sallies was owner of the now-defunct Consumer Global Services LLC.

Three suits are still pending.