Josh Stein wins temporary restraining order against Burlington Tax company
RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — Attorney General Josh Stein won a temporary restraining order against Burlington business Hits Tax & Bookkeeping Services (Hits), its owner Marvin Todd Hooker, and two other employees for allegedly unlawfully deceiving North Carolinians who were trying to apply for COVID-19-related financial and housing assistance.
The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Division received complaints from people in Alamance and Davidson County who were negatively affected by Hits’ unlawful practices.
“This company took advantage of North Carolinians who were facing financial hardships during the pandemic and struggling to keep their homes and their lights on,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “These government programs were created to help people in dire need. Preventing them from getting the help they needed, while also taking their money under false pretenses, is unconscionable. And it’s against the law. So I’m taking action. I’m pleased that this company can’t deceive other people in North Carolina while this lawsuit continues.”
Hits allegedly deceived North Carolinians about two financial assistance programs set up to help people struggling during the pandemic:
1) the federal Homeowners Assistance Fund, which is administered by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency and provides mortgage and mortgage-related financial assistance to homeowners;
2) the North Carolina Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program which provided rent and utility bill assistance to North Carolinians with lower incomes to prevent evictions and utility disconnections.
Hits allegedly advertised that it could help North Carolinians apply for pandemic-related financial assistance, but it charged them for application assistance services even though people could apply for either program for free.
The lawsuit also alleges that company made false statements about the eligibility criteria for the programs, which resulted in people paying Hits to submit their applications when they would not be eligible to receive aid.
Hits also allegedly strung applicants along by giving them false and misleading updates about the status of their applications and failed to submit the necessary documents for some applicants.
As a result, some people who were eligible for aid claim to have missed deadlines and were not able to receive assistance.
The defendants also created and submitted fake email addresses on the applications to prevent the applicants from communicating directly with program administrators.