Holly Petraeus Leads Effort To Stop Scams That Target Soldiers
By Scott Arnold
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - There is a new major effort to stop companies from scamming Fort Campbell soldiers and a familiar name is leading the charge.
Holly Petraeus, whose husband, General David Petraeus, once led the 101st Airborne Division, now leads a federal agency that is cracking down on businesses that scam soldiers.
She was at Fort Campbell on Wednesday, hearing from military families about unscrupulous lenders and business practices that target troops with high interest rates, and confusing contracts.
A few years ago, Staff Sergeant David Madeux wanted a computer before he left for Iraq, all to keep him linked up to friends and family back home. It seemed like a good deal at the time.
"They had it priced at $1,200, but when I looked at how much I would finance it for, it was almost $7,000 dollars over three years," Madeux said. The sergeant's case, and hundreds of others like it, sparked a lawsuit against Britlee Incorporated and Rome Finance Company. Investigators said they also went to great lengths to collect cash from customers, even if they died in action in Iraq.
"But the finance company kept billing that deceased soldier's family, and kept adding finance charges several months after his death," said Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper.
That's where Holly Petraeus comes in leading a new federal agency, called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to help the people that may serve our country bravely, but too many times are the targets of bad business situations.
It's a growing problem, soldiers getting into bad foreclosure or car deals. They are also the target of some for profit colleges, going after their GI Bills.
"They are targeted because they have an absolute guaranteed paycheck, that comes in twice a month, they are not going to quit or be laid off," Petraeus told us.
She has moved 24 times in 37 years and said military families are also targeted because they move a lot, and don't know the reputable businesses in town.
Companies also know they can pressure soldiers to pay up, or face serious problems, and even lose their security clearance.
If you lose your security clearance, you then cannot do the job that the military trained you to do.
"There are a lot of creditors out there who know that and will hold that over their heads, even though they have nothing to do with the much, they will threaten to get them in trouble," Petraeus added.
Petraeus met with Ft. Campbell soldiers on Wednesday, hearing their issues, but also telling them about a new federal agency that's designed to handle their problems.
Sergeant Madeux welcomes the extra effort to fight these scams. He said Ft. Campbell even has a black list of bad businesses, but new ones are popping up all the time.
"Just look at some of the finance companies along 41A, it says we finance all, no matter what it is, it's because they are charging you the maximum interest rate allowed by law," Sgt. Madeux said.
Staff Sergeant Madeux is one of 600 soldiers that were part of it. They are all getting some money back in this case, but the legal process takes time. The lawsuit was first filed back in 2005.
Wednesday, June 19 2013 2:24 PM EDT2013-06-19 18:24:42 GMT
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