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FTC settles with auto loan modification company

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that it reached a settlement with the owner of an auto loan modification operation that falsely promised consumers it could get their vehicle loans modified and stop their cars from being repossessed.

Patrick Freeman, owner of the California-based "Hope for Car Owners," agreed to a settlement with the FTC that bans him from marketing auto loan modifications and any other debt relief services.

According to the FTC, Hope for Car Owners LLC and Freeman charged hundreds of dollars in up-front fees and told the consumers to stop paying their auto lenders, which often left them in worse financial shape and increased the risk that their vehicles would be repossessed. The company then did nothing to get the promised loan modifications and consumers who tried to get refunds were denied, the FTC said.

Under the settlement, Freeman is barred from making misrepresentations about financial products, along with any other product or service. The settlement also imposes a $362,388 judgment, which will be suspended because Freeman's company is in default and he is unable to pay, the FTC said.