The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced that, in partnership with the attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, it is suing Libre by Nexus, Inc. and its owners for a predatory immigrant-services scam that traps victims into paying expensive, long-term fees. The CFPB alleges in the complaint that Libre preys on immigrants, primarily Hispanics, who speak little or no English and are being held in federal detention centers, desperate to return to their families. Libre lures its victims through a series of false and misleading statements about its programs, pressuring them to sign abusive, English-only contracts that bind the immigrants to years of exorbitant monthly payments.
According to the CFPB investigation, Libre’s business model preys on detainees and their families desperate to get the detainees out of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers where they have been held, sometimes for months, while awaiting resolution of their immigration cases. In exchange for securing a bond, Libre requires the immigrants to pay a huge upfront fee equal to 25 to 30 percent of the bond plus $420 per month to “lease” GPS-tracking ankle monitors until their case is resolved, usually years later. Unlike a fully-paid bond, these fees are never refunded. In the end, the CFPB alleges, the immigrants often end up paying far more in non-refundable Libre fees than they would have paid for their refundable ICE bond.
The complaint also alleges that Libre:
- Coerces vulnerable non-English speakers to sign predatory financial contracts in English
- Deceives consumers about its relationship with immigration authorities
- Strong-arms detainees with false debt collection threats
- Incentivizes its employees to deceive and threaten
In its lawsuit, the CFPB is seeking an injunction, damages or restitution to consumers, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and the imposition of civil money penalties.