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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT ON ILLEGAL AUTOMOBILE TITLE LOANS
~ Fredericksburg's Liberty Pawnshop & Gold, LLC Agrees to Make Refunds to Eligible Consumers ~
Richmond--Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that the Commonwealth has reached a settlement with Liberty Pawnshop & Gold, LLC, a Fredericksburg-based pawnbroker, for violations of the Virginia statutes applicable to motor vehicle title lenders, the Virginia statutes applicable to consumer finance companies, and the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA.) Between August 8, 2011 and February 23, 2013, Liberty made no fewer than 54 motor vehicle title loans without a valid license from the State Corporation Commission, committing violations of the VCPA and motor vehicle title loan statutes, as well as charging interest in a way that broke the law.
"When Liberty's actions were brought to our attention, the Office of Attorney General moved quickly to end these illegal loans," said Attorney General Herring. "I am pleased we were able to reach a fair and reasonable agreement with Liberty that provides refunds of all interest paid and other relief to the Virginians who received the illegal loans. Liberty's cooperation throughout our investigation should be noted and we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure compliance with terms of the settlement."
The settlement includes the following key terms:
- Liberty is permanently banned from making motor vehicle title loans in Virginia without obtaining a proper motor vehicle title loan license from the SCC and is barred from charging and receiving interest in excess of 12 percent annually on consumer loans, unless otherwise allowed by statute;
- Liberty cannot repossess any motor vehicles used to secure these illegal loans and will return all motor vehicle titles to its title loan borrowers, or make arrangements to assist its title loan borrowers in obtaining clean duplicate motor vehicle titles;
- Liberty agrees to offer refunds of any collected interest to borrowers, which could total $20,605 in interest paid by 25 borrowers, and to not collect any amounts in excess of the principal amounts it loaned to its title loan borrowers;
- Liberty agrees to pay $7,000 for reimbursement of the Commonwealth's attorney's fees and costs; and $5,000 to the Commonwealth as a civil penalty for its alleged violations of the VCPA.
The Office of the Attorney General will be monitoring the restitution and forbearance phase of the settlement to make sure it is administered properly. Consumers who have questions about the settlement may contact Liberty directly at (540) 898-8499. Under the settlement, Liberty must accept settlement-related collect calls from consumers residing outside of the local calling area.
The civil settlement is in the form of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance that has been approved by the Richmond City Circuit Court. The Commonwealth is represented in this matter by Assistant Attorney General Mark S. Kubiak and Senior Assistant Attorney General David B. Irvin.
The Consumer Protection section of the Office of the Attorney General's enforces state and federal consumer protection laws, keeping Virginians safe from things like identity theft, consumer fraud and telemarketing scams, and enforces antitrust laws that protect businesses and consumers from behavior that defeats healthy competition. The Attorney General's office serves as the central clearinghouse for the receipt, evaluation, investigation, and referral of consumer complaints. When there is a pattern of deception or other wrongdoing, the Attorney General is authorized to take action to stop the illegal conduct, and, where appropriate, seek refunds for affected consumers.