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PREATE WARNS PHILADELPHIA AREA RESIDENTS OF CREDIT CARD SCHEME

 PREATE WARNS PHILADELPHIA AREA RESIDENTS OF CREDIT CARD SCHEME
 HARRISBURG, Pa., March 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernie Preate Jr. today warned consumers that a credit card scheme that victimized more than 150 Philadelphia area consumers last year apparently has resurfaced at a new location under a new name.
 In a suit filed in Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court, Preate charges that defendant Steve Carpenter doesn't deliver on his promise to get a VISA or Mastercard credit card for consumers who pay him a $139.50 fee.
 The suit alleges that Carpenter operates the scam under the name Lower Bucks Financial Group from his residence at 2525 Welsh Road, Philadelphia.
 Carpenter and Ronald Kennedy were sued by Preate's Bureau of Consumer Protection last year in Commonwealth Court in connection with their operation of Kennedy Finance Center, 601 Ashland Ave., Glenolden.
 As a result of that suit, the defendants were ordered by the court to pay $10,000 in fines and make restitution to 152 consumers who each paid $159.50 to the defendants to get a major credit card.
 In a contempt action filed in Commonwealth Court on Monday, March 16, Preate alleges that Carpenter and Kennedy have ignored the court's order to pay the fines and restitution.
 "While it appears Kennedy Finance Center is now out of business, my consumer agents determined that Carpenter has resurrected the alleged credit card scheme under the name Lower Bucks Financial Group," Preate said.
 The suit filed today alleges that Lower Bucks Financial Group uses automated dialing equipment to telephone consumers in the Philadelphia area and ask if they are interested in obtaining credit information.
 "If the consumer expresses interest, a telemarketer picks up the line to discuss the promotion and obtain credit information," Preate said. "At some point later, the telemarketer calls to tell the consumer that he or she qualifies for a VISA or Mastercard," Preate said.
 The suit alleges that Carpenter "guarantees" that Lower Bucks Financial Group will get a VISA or Mastercard for the consumer within two or three weeks -- regardless of the consumer's credit history -- if the consumer will sign a contract and pay a $139.50 fee.
 A representative of Lower Bucks Financial Group then goes to consumers' homes, where he has them sign the contracts and pay the fees, the suit alleges.
 An investigation by the Bureau of Consumer Protection allegedly determined that Carpenter is not authorized to represent VISA or Mastercard and that "no consumer has ever received a VISA or Mastercard as a result of retaining the defendant," Preate said.
 The suit, which was filed by Deputy Attorney General Nora A. Dowd of the bureau's Philadelphia office, asks the court to order Carpenter to make restitution to consumers and pay civil penalties.
 In a request for a temporary injunction filed with the suit, Preate also asks the court to:
 -- Direct Bell Telephone Co. to disconnect Lower Bucks Financial Group's phone service.
 -- Freeze Carpenter's personal assets.
 -- Order the defendant to produce business records listing names of consumers who paid the $139.50 fee.
 A hearing on the injunction request is scheduled for tomorrow, March 19, at 10 a.m.
 "We don't know at this time how many consumers have paid fees to Carpenter," Preate said. "But we believe it's essential to close down this operation immediately to protect consumers in the Philadelphia area."
 The attorney general said his office's investigation of Lower Bucks Financial Group was prompted by a referral from the Bucks County Consumer Protection Office.
 Preate said that any consumer who believes he or she has been victimized by Lower Bucks Financial Group should contact the Philadelphia office of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 215-560-2414.
 /delval/
 -0- 3/18/92
 /CONTACT: Jack J. Lewis of the Office of Attorney General, 717-787-5211, or at home, 717-657-9840/ CO: Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


CC -- PH024 -- 9267 03/18/92 13:17 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 18, 1992
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