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One Houston client, who asked only to be identified as "Brian," had signed up with Lindsey when Lindsey was still contracting for the Network. Brian was so excited about the services that he paid $200 to become an affiliate, and he made $900 when he signed up a new client. But ultimately, Brian says, the Network didn't deliver. He's not exactly sure what caused the rift between Lindsey and the Network, but he assumes the fault lies more with the latter.
"I don't want to paint Bob in this horrible light, like he just took me," Brian says. "...CCDN, if anybody, is the one that didn't help me, you know? Because Bob was pretty frustrated with CCDN because they weren't helping a lot of these people...I don't want to make Bob the bad guy."
These and other clients said that Lindsey and his associates explained debtors' rights to them. Of course, if you don't have the means to pay a non-lawyer to explain the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but you do have access to the Internet and at least one finger, or perhaps a toe, or maybe just two fleshy nubs and a stick, you could probably Google it. You could also check out Houston consumer attorney Richard Alderman's site, www.peopleslawyer.net. Alderman is the associate dean of the University of Houston Law Center and the director of the Consumer Law Center.
"There are a lot of con artists out there trying to take money from people who are probably the most desperate people, because they owe a lot of money," Alderman says, going on to explain that "once you find yourself over your head in debt, there's a number of options...It's probably in my opinion the most extreme, but that's what bankruptcy is designed for. Bankruptcy is designed to give people a fresh start, and if you find that you owe more money than you would ever be able to pay off and you don't have any income right now, bankruptcy is a viable option. And the stigma that people see associated with it really shouldn't be there."
Alderman wasn't familiar with the vapor money theory, nor was UH Law Professor Richard Dole, who laughed when the Press attempted to explain it to him — especially the part about cash (Federal Reserve notes) being junk.
"I'd ask them to give you all the notes they've got so you can help them clean up," Dole chuckles. An expert on bankruptcy and the Uniform Commercial Code, Dole expressed bewilderment over the sections of the UCC Lindsey was peddling — via the Network — to clients as tools they could use to invalidate debt.
"They're mischaracterizing everything," he says, adding later, "What they're doing is they're hurting people who don't have enough money. And it's just a come-on to get that five or six thousand dollars."
Of course, there's one possibility to consider: Dole and Alderman might just be part of the conspiracy.
When Lindsey continued doing business (under a different name), prosecutors were irate.
They got the same investigator who didn't actually investigate the first time to sign another affidavit saying Lindsey was up to his old tricks, and they filed motions for contempt, discovery and injunction.
Lindsey and Crawford testified in Harris County District Court that the new company was clearly acting within the confines of the previous injunction, and they had only formed to help the clients who were left out in the cold when the old company's assets were frozen.
When asked what services they were actually providing, neither was able to give clear answers, although they did say they spent many hours on the phone with clients, walking them through questions and concerns over debt. Lindsey testified that he just generally did a lot of "hand-holding." This prompted Judge Steve Kirkland to say at one point, "It's not clear to me that he's doing anything...If he's only hand-holding, he should be ashamed of himself."
Although Kirkland ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to hold Lindsey in contempt, he added the new company to the existing petition, and he closed the proceedings with the following statement to Lindsey and Crawford:
"I don't know how you can look at yourself with a straight face and take money from people."
But as Lindsey told the Press, he's known hard times. He can empathize with a debtor's feeling of anguish.
"I understand what it's like for somebody to be in very desperate circumstances," Lindsey says. "I understand what it's like for someone to understand to feel like...there's no hope for them."
And someone like that knows exactly what to say.