‘I went through a nightmare.’ Consumers say debt relief company bilked them out of thousands of dollars

After hearing from viewers, Team 12 Investigates started looking into complaints about a company called Litigation Practice Group (LPG).

Rachel Yonkunas

Jul 26, 2023, 10:04 PM

Updated 352 days ago

Share:

Imagine making monthly payments to pay off your debt and improve your credit score, only to find out none of your money went towards your debt. After hearing from viewers, Team 12 Investigates started looking into complaints about a company called Litigation Practice Group (LPG).
Alicia, of Patchogue, had never needed help paying the bills until she lost her job during the pandemic. She searched online and found Litigation Practice Group, a debt resolution company, to help her get back on track. Her monthly payments to LPG slowly chiseled away at her debt.
“They would tell you and assure you over and over again, do not worry, we'll handle this,” Alicia said.
Two years into her contract, and nearly finished with her monthly payments, Alicia got an unsettling knock at the door. She was handed a summons that notified her she was being sued by her creditor for unpaid debt.
“Then, of course right away, you’re trying to call [LPG]. No one's answering the phone. No one's answering emails,” said Alicia. “And now you're not sleeping. Now you're traumatized because you don't know what's happening.”
Alicia said not a single penny went towards paying off her debt. Her credit score plummeted despite paying LPG thousands of dollars—and she is not alone.
Dozens of people, from New York to California, have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau in recent months, claiming they also paid hefty payments with little to no results.
Team 12 Investigates obtained documents from bankruptcy court proceedings in California that accuse LPG of diverting millions of dollars to third parties and transferring client accounts to “alter ego entities” without client permission shortly before filing for bankruptcy in March.
Some of those clients are now taking on the corporate conglomerate. Lee Russell, from Tennessee, started an online group with other people who said they were duped by LPG.
“People that we’ve talked to Rachel, they have liens on their homes. Credit is gone,” Russell said. “I mean, you’ve got Long Island, you’ve got Michigan, you’ve got Illinois, you’ve got Florida. It’s all over the United States this is happening.”
Russell has been trying to help some people, like Alicia, get their money back. She relentlessly searched for emails and phone numbers for people employed by the company. Eventually, she got a hold of Tony Diab, the disbarred attorney who runs LPG.
“We did get a hold of some employees from LPG that, after we told them all of our research and what was going on, they started sending refunds out to the people that we know in our group,” said Russell.
With Russell’s help, Alicia said she was able to get some of her money back after speaking directly with Diab. She was delivered a check signed by a name she had never seen before, but it cleared after a two-week hold by her bank. However, other refund checks sent to former LPG clients are now bouncing.
Team 12 Investigates and the Turn to Tara team reached out Diab, LPG managing shareholder Daniel March and their attorneys to ask when and if people will get their money back. They have not responded.
The Federal Trade Commission warns that working with debt settlement companies can be risky. Here are ways to spot the scams:
  • Never pay any group that tries to collect fees from you before it settles any of your debts or enters you into a debt management plan.
  • No legitimate organization will guarantee to settle all of your debts or get you fast loan forgiveness.
  • No legitimate organization tries to enroll you in its program without first reviewing your financial situation.
  • No legitimate organization will guarantee you results from a “new government program.”
  • No legitimate organization tells you to stop communicating with your creditors without explaining the serious consequences.
  • No legitimate organization tells you it can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits.
The FTC recommends checking out a nonprofit credit counseling organization as an alternative. It can help people develop a debt management plan that fits their budget. However, some credit counselors charge high fees which they might not tell you about.
Alicia said, in hindsight, she does remember second-guessing LPG when she first signed up as a client. She won’t ignore that instinct ever again.
“I felt I was pressured and bullied,” Alicia explained. “Almost like [the managing shareholder] shamed me, like I was stupid if I didn't do it because I'm making a huge mistake. So that was the red flag. I should have listened to my gut.” 


More from News 12