Hard lesson in debt management

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Seven On Your Side
February 19, 2011 4:48:12 AM PST
Former marine Umberto DeJesus is trying to dig out of debt incurred while studying to be a physician's assistant.

"We almost got evicted 2 or 3 times when we didn't have money to get by," he said.

Umberto and his wife Nancy thought they found a lifeline last April.

His tax preparer at Alpha Financial offered to help for a fee of 15-hundred dollar.

"He said within 2 years you'll be done and have no debts left," DeJesus explained.

They paid with their tax refund money last spring.

Nine and a half months later, DeJesus said absolutely nothing was done.

After we called his accountant, Leval Moore, who owns the business, wrote this refund check. But it bounced.

"For him to breach that trust is disappointing and extremely aggravating," DeJesus said.

What DeJesus didn't know is that he could have come here to one of the city 20 Financial Empowerment Centers where he could have gotten that advice to get out of debt for free.

Financial advisor Irene Fung said the organization has helped New Yorkers pay down 3.1 million in debt and save them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The first advice she gives to clients considering paying debt settlement companies?

"Don't pay any upfront fees," she said.

That's a lesson Umberto is learning the hard way. Almost year later all he has is a rubber check and debt's still accruing interest daily.

We wanted answers, so we went back to Moore.

"Okay, well, he discussed he wanted a refund. We're working on that. It was an issue I had with a third party company," Moore said.

His explanation was bad business with the debt settlement company he since stopped using, but that didn't explain the rubber refund check he wrote.

"This is personal. It had nothing to do with the business. I had a problem with this particular bank. I resolved it," Moore said.

The next day Moore brought DeJesus a bank check - a refund plus the bounced check bank fee.


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