By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
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By Dianna Wray
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Lindsey was working as a freelance Web marketer when, he says, he was referred to the Network by a friend who was a Network contractor. The friend needed help with his affiliate Web site, but Lindsey became so enamored of the services the Network advertised that he wanted to become a contractor as well. He says he sympathized with the plight of the debtor.
He called Phil Manger in Connecticut, and Lindsey soon formed The Credit Card Solution. But before long, Lindsey says, he had the suspicion that the Network wasn't actually delivering what it promised. He says he flew up to Chicago to meet with Manger and Robert Lock (see "Credit Repair: Connecting the Dots") and explain his concerns. Although the two lawyers agreed to make changes, Lindsey says, "The changes that they promised did not materialize."
"We decided to dissociate from the CCDN...We could not in good conscience continue to send people there," he continues. "But [we decided] that we could develop a network of attorneys, that we could...provide better service."
Lindsey teamed up with Houston attorney Rodney Brisco and ex-Network employee Tracy Webster, who had worked (alongside his wife, Patricia) in the Network's customer service center in Cattaraugus, New York. The former owner of a lawn-care service in Florida, Webster had a history of credit card default and home foreclosure that seemed to spark his interest in the debt-elimination industry.
In 2002, he got into the budding field of bogus arbitration forums, which debtors — and people who wanted to make money off debtors — formed as an ostensibly valid alternative to the National Arbitration Forum. All you needed to do was incorporate "Acme Arbitration Association" and send a letter to the credit card issuer explaining that Acme arbitrated the dispute and found in favor of the debtor. Case closed. This mostly just succeeded in increasing banks' bloodlust. So Webster gave that up and went to work for the Network, then for Bob Lindsey. Now living in Alabama, he declined comment for this story.
Lindsey says he suspected the Network would file a complaint with the Texas AG. And even though he had a history with the AG's office, Lindsey for some reason figured the AG would find there was no merit to the Network's complaint.
"If anything, it's a contract dispute between me and the Network," Lindsey says. "If they're saying that I owe them money, why don't they sue me for that money and we'll let a court decide? Instead, what they did [was run] to the AG and say, 'Well, he owes us money.'"
Former preacher Rick Crawford, one of Lindsey's partners, told the Press that Harris County District Court Judge Steve Kirkland had "pre-made up his mind before we ever stepped in that court that he was going to kill us. This was something from the AG and there's no possible way that our program works...[But] we do have going on 1,000 customers. We'll have 100,000 customers in the very near future because debt-settlement doesn't work, bankruptcy doesn't work. But the judge doesn't want to know anything about what we do. I'm not sure why, but he had pre-made up his mind that we're a scam and a fraud, and we are not...Call the clients and find out."
So we did. And for the most part, the ones we talked to were ecstatic with the service Lindsey provided, although some didn't want their names used.
A Texas client, who said he paid between $3,000 and $4,000, said Lindsey helped him dispute charges on two accounts that totaled about $40,000. The upshot is, this client decided not to pay the $40,000. The debt wasn't eliminated — he just didn't pay it. He said this decision not to pay — which he reached with the help of Lindsey — has been a huge relief.
"I had...good moral support through the process that we went through," the client said.
And then there's the glowing testimonial from a 73-year-old North Carolina man who said he paid somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000 to fight a suit filed by a collections company. He said the company dropped the suit, but he wasn't exactly sure if it forgave the debt. All he knows is, he's not going to pay them. He said Lindsey's service was worth 100 times what he paid.
Then there's the Houston man who paid the $2,000-$5,000 fee, for which Lindsey said he'd be able to restore the client's credit. Lindsey also pointed that client to a Fort Lauderdale attorney whom the client is now paying to attempt to settle his debts. Although the client had only FedExed his financials to the lawyer the day before speaking to the Press, the client was sure his debt would be settled. (Although Rick Crawford specifically told the Press that he and Lindsey don't offer "debt settlement," that is precisely what their go-to man in Florida tries to do for the clients they send him.)
"I don't know how I'm going to thank Bob," the client says. "I don't know how I'm going to repay him for helping me to get to where I am."