News 4 Investigates: Company offering help to those facing bankr - KMOV.com

News 4 Investigates: Company offering help to those facing bankruptcy allegedly doesn't deliver

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Credit: KMOV Credit: KMOV
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

News 4 Investigates recently went undercover to investigate complaints against and the practices of Critique Services, a firm offering legal help to customers wanting to file for bankruptcy.

Reporter Lauren Trager personally spoke to 15 customers or former customers who complained of paying hundreds of dollars to have attorneys begin bankruptcy court proceedings and then receiving no services.

"It was like sinking, ever more into not being able to deal with any of it," said Tazia, a customer.

Another customer, Jeanette described it this way, "I walked into the hands of evilness."

"They were very eager to take the money. And they took it," Patricia, another customer said.

The Better Business Bureau has received hundreds of complaints about Critique since 2003.

News 4 uncovered records showing that a similar Critique company began in the 1990s and often operated in the Metro East. That company's practices became so alarming to a Federal bankruptcy judge that in 2003, Critique and it's owner. Beverly Holmes Diltz were banned from ever conducting business in Southern Illinois' Federal bankruptcy courts.  The company then moved across the river to St. Louis.

Bankruptcy attorney, David Gunn, represents a client that has sued Critique.  He tells News 4 that Critique does a large volume of business and "apparently their success is driven because they charge a very low price."

In St. Louis, a federal bankruptcy judge has suspended Critique's lawyers for falsifying documents and lying to their clients.   The judge saying no lawyer can use Critique's address on Washington Avenue until March if they want to appear in bankruptcy court.

When News 4’s Lauren Trager went into Critique offices with an undercover camera, a manager appeared ready to take her on as a client, telling her that "the attorney fee is $349 and there is a court filing fee of $335.  Do you want to...  we could schedule someone to talk to an attorney."

When Trager asked if she had to pay she was told "Well, fees are required on the day of the appointment."

She then specified they take payment by cash or money order only.

News 4 also uncovered documents that show that even though Critique likely earns hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, Holmes Diltz admits under oath the company hasn't filed taxes in at least the past three years.

A lawyer for Critique sent a statement to News 4:

"For 20 years Critique Services LLC has primarily served persons in the African American community; during the last several years, it has done this through contractual arrangements with attorneys who have been licensed to practice law in the bankruptcy courts.  Presently, Critique Services LLC is awaiting an opinion from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging restrictions imposed upon it by the Bankruptcy Court.  Currently, it is helping persons who were previously represented by attorneys with whom it was affiliated by referring them to other attorneys to continue their bankruptcy process. 

Currently, all persons who are newly seeking bankruptcy related services are being referred to attorneys who are willing to provide the services on an affordable and economic basis."

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