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Last year, NBC 7 Investigates broke the story of a local credit repair firm that took advantage of hundreds of consumers, desperate to repair their credit. On Monday, employee Eric Phillips was sentenced to three years in federal prison. NBC 7’s Mari Payton talks to Phillips in this exclusive report.
The mastermind behind a credit report scheme that defrauded more than 100 victims has been sentenced to nearly three years in federal prison.
Eric Phillips, a former employee of Georggin Law, received his sentence in federal court Monday morning for his role at the law firm. Phillips was also ordered to pay back 120 former clients who filed complaints with the FBI.
In an exclusive interview Phillips told NBC 7, “I’m apologizing for the service that wasn’t delivered to the clients. And for whatever hurt may have occurred as a result of not getting the service.”
Phillips helped create the Georggin Law Firm in 2010 with Ernest Georggin. A State Bar Investigation found Georggin collected a salary, but Phillips managed the firm.
Last October, Phillips pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and admitted to misusing the Georggin Law Firm to defraud clients. According the State Bar of California, Georggin surrendered his law license during the same month.
Local victims of Phillips’ elaborate scheme said they are glad the mastermind not only has to pay them back, but that he is also going to prison.
Two former clients Jenny Summers and Daniel Ramirez addressed the judge at Phillip’s sentencing. Summers paid Phillips a retainer fee of $4200; Ramirez paid $6600. Both are entitled to restitution.
“I thought they might be lenient and give him parole, so I’m ecstatic,” Summers said after the sentencing. “I think that a jail sentence will do him good.”
“I don’t consider myself naïve, but ‘buyer beware,’” said Ramirez. “You’ve just got to be aware of these people. He was so slick. He was so smooth. He loved to talk. He was good at what he did—talking.”
Georggin told NBC 7 Investigates he had to “take some responsibility” for the scheme. He agreed to pay $90,000 plus interest to 25 former clients of the law firm who filed complaints.
Phillips told clients he had been an attorney with the firm, despite the fact he was not an attorney and was not licensed to practice law.
According to the US Attorney’s office, Phillips admitted to using false claims such as a 100 percent success rate and a money back guarantee. He also admitted to personally pocketing $250,000 from the scheme.
Georggin Law Firm closed in June 2013.
After his sentencing Monday, Phillips told NBC 7 Investigates, “We will get through this. You know, 33 months is not the end of the world, and we’re going to do the best we can to get through it, get it behind us as quickly as possible, have me get back to work and honor my agreement for restitution.”
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Valerie Chu, it’s important for those seeking legal assistance to research the people they are hiring.
“It’s important to the extent people can to do research, to conduct some investigation online,” said Chu. “There’s also a State Bar website that you can look up to make sure the person you’re talking to that says they’re an attorney is an attorney. That information is publicly available.”
If you were a victim of Georggin Law, Chu said, you are entitled to get your money back from Phillips.
According to Chu, you should contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the FBI and give them your contact information as well as documentation regarding the extent of your loss.
Phillips is scheduled to be back in court on April 14, 2014 for a restitution hearing. At the hearing, the judge will determine exactly how much money Phillips is required to pay his victims.