Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Colorado servicemembers part of $92 million court payout

Nick Beadleston Nick.Beadleston@gmail.com - Updated: July 29, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Colorado is among 13 states that have settled an investigation into improper lending expected to provide $92 million in debt relief for more than 17,800 U.S. military personnel.

According to a statement released by the Colorado State Attorney General's office, 740 military members in Colorado will benefit from the decision.

"The company illegally collected on loans that were void, and I am pleased to tell Colorado's military personnel that their outstanding debt to Rome Finance is now paid in full," said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in the statement. "It is a special honor to protect those who protect our country."

Suthers' statement indicated the most frequent complaint his office receives from military members is regarding debt collectors.

Rome Finance has also conducted business under the names Colfax Capitol Corporation and Culver Capitol, LLC,. According to the statement, the company set up mall kiosks on military bases where military members received instant-financing contracts for no money down.

These contracts were then used to purchase TVs, gaming systems, laptops and other consumer devices.

The contracts did not, however, accurately disclose the amounts the borrowers would pay in total.

Companies that engage in predatory lending, or high-interest creditors as they are sometime known, continue to pose a problem for military in Colorado Springs.

"It's a scourge on young enlisted soldiers," said George Hayward, development manager for The Home Front Cares, a non-profit that provides emergency grants to Colorado's military community.

Representatives from Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base said they could not comment on the story at this time.

"For military in general they can be targets solely because they do have a steady paycheck coming in," said Crystal Johnston, the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado's director of marketing and events.

She also said military members are targeted because they can spend extended periods out for the country or training, so reaching them can be difficult.

"It's very important to read the whole contract from beginning to end," Johnston said. "Always be aware of the total repayment of the loan. Get that in writing."

She also advised military members ask questions of their lenders, and to not sign any documents they do not understand or feel uncomfortable with.

Johnston was unwilling to discuss specific instances of military targeted predatory lending.

According to the attorney general's statement, the investigation found that Rome Finance "hid finance charges when marketing products; withheld required financial information from billing statements, and deceptively, unfairly and abusively collected debt that it was not owed."

Rome Finance had previously been levied with state and federal enforcement actions. Two of the company's owners have now been banned from lending, and Colfax is in Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Any service members who have been victims of unfair lending practices looking to share their experience should contact Nick Beadleston at nick.beadleston@gmail.com or (910) 988-1104

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