Manhattan Attorney Prosecutes First Ever Criminal Charges Based on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Referral

Two Former Employees of the Debt Settlement Company Have Already Pled Guilty

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging MISSION SETTLEMENT AGENCY (“MISSION”), its owner MICHAEL LEVITIS, and three of its employees – DENIS KURLYAND, BORIS SHULMAN, and MANUEL CRUZ – with mail and wire fraud charges in connection with a multi-million dollar scheme that victimized more than 1,200 debt-ridden individuals across the country.

As alleged, the defendants fraudulently tricked people into paying MISSION for debt settlement services by lying to prospective customers about its fees, and its purported affiliation with the federal government and one of the three leading credit bureaus in the U.S., as well as the results it supposedly achieved for its customers. In connection with the scheme, MISSION received over $6.6 million in fees. For over 1200 of its customers, MISSION took fees totaling nearly $2.2 million and has never paid a penny to the customers’ creditors. Each of the individual defendants was arrested this morning. They are expected to be arraigned in Manhattan federal court later today before U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.

Also unsealed today were the guilty pleas of two former MISSION employees, FELIX LEMBERSKIY and ZAKHIR SHIRINOV, for their participation in the fraudulent scheme. SHIRINOV pled guilty pursuant to an Information before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote on April 26, 2013, and LEMBERSKIY pled guilty pursuant to an Information before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams on April 29, 2013.

In a separate action, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) announced civil charges against MISSION and LEVITIS, among others.

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