Financial Hurt: Judgment against shuttered South Florida debt management companies

WSVN — The president of two closed South Florida debt management companies now has his own debt to pay. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero broke the story and is back on the case.

When I caught up with Bobby Blackmon last May, he said he was resolving all the consumer complaints about his Fort Lauderdale debt management and credit counseling company.

Carmel Cafiero: "You didn’t take advantage of these people?"

Bobby Blackmon: "Absolutely not. Absolutely not."

He also disputed our reporting that authorities were investigating.  

Bobby Blackmon: "When you guys first reported and stated there was this huge investigation. There was no investigation with the Attorney General’s Office."

But there was. Two months after our meeting, Florida’s Attorney General sued Blackmon and his Nation Wide Consumer Debt Relief and Financial Help Services for "…Unfair, deceptive and unconscionable…" business practices.  

And now, the state says, it’s pay back time.       

7News producer: "We wanted to ask you about having to pay the over 1 million dollar judgment from the attorney general."

Blackmon didn’t answer that question from a 7News producer, but in an agreement with the state, Blackmon agreed to pay more than $1.6 million.

Some of that money will go to the people who hired him to get out of debt.  

The attorney general says Blackmon’s companies collected money from people each month, but consistently failed to pay their creditors on time– or at all.    

From Florida–

Laura Jorgensen: "My credit is worse than ever."

To Louisiana–

Wendy Windsor: "The creditors were calling everyday and what happened as a result of the missed payments for two months, all the interest rates went back up."

Even as far away as Hawaii.

Lorene Kula: "Finally it went into default and now two of the accounts are in collection."
Lorene Kula says Financial Help Services deducted money from her father’s checking account, but stopped paying his creditors.

She spoke with us through video chat from Honolulu.  

Lorene Kula: "I did explain the situation with the creditors and they understood, but they still went on with the proceeding with collecting their money."

And Kula isn’t alone.

A cascade of 400 complaints from 48 states tell similar stories.

Mike Cohen: "He intends to pay everything that has to be paid."

Blackmon’s attorney says his client has fully cooperated with authorities and blames Blackmon’s failed companies on someone else.

Mike Cohen: "He had a manager who, unfortunately, was very dishonest and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that’s what we would have raised as an affirmative defense had this case gone to trial."
Blackmon is banned from the debt management, credit counseling, and credit repair business in Florida– permanently. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.  

Consumers who already filed complaints will be contacted by the Attorney General’s Office. Those who have not are asked to do so by the end of the month.

Florida Attorney General

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE
You can also send a tweet to @carmelonthecase