U.S. authorities shut down tax relief scam

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U.S. authorities shut down tax relief scam

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 | 2:48 PM ET

CBC News

A U.S. tax relief scam supported by slick TV ads has been shut down after ripping off consumers for more than $60 million.

A California couple bilked consumers for more than $60 million by promising relief from tax bills. (iStock)Many Canadians who watch American cable channels would have seen the ads, which feature smiling taxpayers bragging about how much their tax debt was reduced.

But according to documents from the U.S. District Court, the only people smiling in real life were Alexander Seung Hahn and Joo Hyun Park, the husband and wife team behind the scheme.

When federal agents executed a search warrant on the couple's Beverly Hills, Calif., business, they seized a Ferrari from Hahn and placed liens on two residences, including one valued at $3.4 million. The couple leased six other vehicles, including a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, two Porsches and two Mercedes Benzes.

Cash-strapped consumers received nothing after paying the couple's firm between $3,200 and $25,000 each. At a news conference in Chicago, a Federal Trade Commission official explained that consumers who contacted the company for tax relief were promised their tax bills could be settled for a fraction of what was owed.

After paying the fee, consumers were sent forms to fill out. When they complained they hadn't received the promised services, the company accused them of not providing the proper information.

In some cases, American Tax Relief did offer to help set up a payment plan for the full tax amount owing. However, their fees were not refunded.

"We've made it a top priority to go after scammers who try to exploit the financial hardship of others," said David C. Vladeck, director of the Federal Trade Commission's bureau of consumer protection.

On Sept. 24, a federal judge in Chicago imposed a temporary restraining order, prohibiting deceptive claims, freezing the couple's assets and appointing a receiver to manage American Tax Relief.

"For people having a tough time paying their taxes, the last thing they need is to lose more money to a fraud," Vladeck said.

The company's California state business licence was suspended last year over non-payment of taxes.

In spite of the massive scale of the fraud, Hahn and Park are not facing criminal charges at this time. Neither has been arrested or had to spend any time behind bars.

The FTC does not have the authority to launch a criminal investigation.


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This is EXACTLY why I do not believe in most of these dumb commercials on TV - They promise to lower your payments, stop the interest payments, and other things that seem like a win-win for the customers. They (FTC/FBI) need to take these frauds down, as there seems to be an increase in these types of commercials, and it seems to be an epidemic in the ecoonomy - meaning that, because of the bad economy, people may be drawn to these types of services.

I have seen this type of commercial on tv for awhile, and I honestly belive that, based on investigations done by the authorities show that 99% of these setups are frauds - There seem to be legit companies out there that want to take advantage of peoples' bad situations, and this to me is not right, as is evidenced by this article. As more of these "companies" advertise on TV, it becomes harder to determine which are legit, and which are scams - I feel that the FTC has to do more to deal with these "fly by night" operaions - They obviously know that there are many of them out there, and they have to be able to catch them, but what you have so many people that can be "taken" by these companies, action should be swift.


Edited by baker7
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The IRS will NOT be satisfied unless you Pay UP - They will find ways to take whatever they think you have to satisfy a debt - Making a "deal" is another way, but I have yet to see a legit "deal" that allows you to be able to continue to do what you do, and still be able to live in your home/keep your property.

Best advice: Pay your taxes, and that should (hopefully) get them off your back - but we all know how sneaky they can be, and if you don't pay, they will find out heheeh


There are three ways to please the IRS.

Pay up.

Make a deal directly with them.


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