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I'm glad these scam artists were shut down before they could do this to anyone else.

AG settles Watertown soldier scam

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New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was in Watertown yesterday to announce a $3.5 million settlement in a scam targeting soldiers with the sale of electronics. Soldiers who still owe money to the company will be relieved of their debts and have their credit histories repaired.

But those who already paid lost thousands of dollars to the scam. About 1,000 soldiers were affected. Joanna Richards was there and has this report.

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Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

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A company called SmartBuy set up a kiosk in Salmon Run Mall selling electronics to soldiers. The company would buy items from Best Buy or CostCo and double or triple the prices. And it wouldn't accept cash or credit card payment. Instead, soldiers signed contracts with a financing company called Rome Financial, that charged them high interest rates and hidden fees.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said many soldiers paid huge sums for items like laptops.

There is one example of a soldier who bought a laptop that cost $1200 for about $3200 at an interest rate of 19.2%. And when we brought this action and reached a settlement, he owed $6000. This is on a computer that you can go buy now for $1200.

Schneiderman said today's settlement puts an end to collection agencies harassing soldiers on Rome Financial’s behalf.

Rome Financial's in bankruptcy, but we reached an agreement with the bankruptcy trustee to ensure that all outstanding contracts with soldiers are void, their debts are wiped out, and that Rome Financial is going to take steps to see that their credit histories are restored.

Fort Drum Garrison Commander Col. Noelle T. Nicole attended the announcement and thanked the attorney general for his work on behalf of affected servicemembers.

Joseph LaTarte had paid over five-thousand dollars for a laptop that quickly broke. He’d still owed more than twelve-hundred dollars on it, and he said he was relieved he'd be keeping more of his paychecks now.

I'm glad these scam artists were shut down before they could do this to anyone else.

The people behind the scam will never again be allowed to do business in New York state. Further litigation is continuing against the companies involved.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm Joanna Richards in Watertown.

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