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AG Healey files lawsuit claiming immigration bond company took advantage of MA immigrants

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Photo courtesy of Maura Healey

BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today filed a lawsuit against Libre by Nexus and its parent company, Nexus Services, alleging that the company preys on immigrants held in federal detention centers by offering to pay for their immigration bonds to secure their release, while concealing or misrepresenting the true nature and costs of its services. Libre has hundreds of current and former clients in Massachusetts.

According to the complaint — filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia — Libre markets its services to detainees and their friends and family members who are desperate to secure their loved one’s release. Libre advertises what it calls immigration bond “securitization” services, charging large upfront fees and hefty monthly payments to arrange to have detainees released on bond, and requiring them to wear GPS-tracking devices until the immigration proceeding is resolved. Libre leads consumers to believe that they are taking on a loan, and that its services are approved by federal immigration authorities. Consumers later discover that the monthly fees paid to Libre were not credited toward their bond, are nonrefundable, and frequently end up being thousands of dollars more than the face value of the bond. Libre actually operates as a middleman between detainees and a bondsman.

“Libre has built a business preying on immigrants and their families,” said AG Healey. “The company seizes moments of desperation, fear, and confusion in order to profit from detainees with misleading contracts, exorbitant fees, forced GPS tracking, and threats of legal action and deportation. We have taken action today with our state and federal partners to put an end to these illegal practices and protect our vulnerable immigrant communities.”

Joining AG Healey in co-filing today’s lawsuit are the attorneys general of New York and Virginia, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Many of these immigrants came to the United States to pursue the American dream. Instead, they got trapped in a financial nightmare,” said CFPB Acting Director David Uejio. “By preying upon immigrants who may speak limited English, Libre targeted and exploited a distinct, diverse, and vulnerable community. Today’s action should serve notice that financial scams targeting communities of color will not be tolerated.”

The complaint alleges that the defendants have and continue to violate several laws, including the Consumer Protection Act and states’ consumer protection laws. In particular, the complaint alleges:

• Libre requires consumers to sign confusing agreements that are frequently written only in English, even though a vast majority of Libre’s clients do not speak or read English and do not understand it. Libre misleads them by misrepresenting the nature, terms, and costs of its services.

• Libre mischaracterizes its financial services as a “program” by boasting that it offers “wraparound services,” including free legal services. In reality, Libre provides nothing more than a referral to lawyers for its clients, who may receive no legal services at all.

• To get clients to comply with the company’s agreement and pay its fees, Libre creates the false impression that it has associations with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other government actors.

• Libre threatens clients that failing to pay fees will lead to arrest, a return to detention, or deportation. Libre also attempts to collect fees by making false threats to take legal action, sell accounts into collection, and report consumers to credit bureaus.

• The bulky GPS-tracking devices that Libre has required clients to wear frequently malfunction, interfere with everyday activities, and have caused physical injuries. Libre required clients to continue wearing, maintaining, and paying for these devices even when it knew they were not functioning or had been deactivated.

Today’s lawsuit also names Libre’s principals — Michael Donovan, Richard Moore, and Evan Ajin — who devised the company’s business model, implemented it, directed its operation, and knew the details of its workings.

The lawsuit seeks to put an end to the company’s illegal practices, obtain millions of dollars in restitution for the thousands of victims, and impose penalties on the companies.

If you or someone you know in Massachusetts has been a victim of Libre’s unfair and deceptive practices, please call AG Healey’s Civil Rights Hotline at (617) 963-2917.

Handling the case for Massachusetts is Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Burke of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Investigator Ciara Tran of AG Healey’s Civil Investigations Division.

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