Company hired to help people settle their debt closes suddenly

Some Channel 9 viewers who thought they were attacking their debt are looking for answers after the company they hired to help them closed suddenly.

Several people contacted Action 9 and said they paid Carolina Legal Services hundreds each month to help them get out of the red. Now that the business is closed, they’re worried.

“I was a single mom and trying to figure out how to fix my financial situation by myself,” Amanda Bryer of Mooresville told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

She got a postcard in the mail from the company and thought she’d try them.

“I Google it. I look into it. It looks legit. I sign up for this 42-month program,” she said.

But Bryer says Carolina Legal Services closed 22 months in.

“I was heartbroken, and I paced my back porch for two days,” she said. “I basically got left there in the dust.”

The Better Business Bureau said it received 174 complaints about the company over the last three years, but Bryer said she didn’t know that.

Action 9 learned that the lawyer running the company, Daniel Rufty, got in legal trouble with the state bar. It said his business committed “predatory and illegal practices” and suspended his law license for five years.

Bryer says she paid Carolina Legal Services more than $7,000. She claims the company kept most of the money and that less than $1,000 of it actually went to pay off her debt.

She told Stoogenke at least one creditor is threatening to sue her.

“Just always keep your eyes open, there’s nothing more you can do and, some days, all you can do is sit back and breathe and hope for the best,” she said.

Stoogenke reached out to Rufty last week to get his side of the story. His lawyer said they may provide a statement, but they didn’t in time for this article.

Stoogenke looked into the matter for Bryer and anyone who used this company. The state bar told him Rufty says he set up a $1 million trust to pay people back. Anyone who was a client and has questions can contact Pendergrass Law Firm online or by calling 919-510-9559.

Stoogenke offers this advice for anyone trying to chip away at debt:

- First, try tackling it yourself. Talk to your creditors directly and see if you can work out a deal.

- If you prefer to hire someone, the Federal Trade Commission recommends using a credit union, local college, military base, or the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service.

(WATCH: Charlotte couple say builder did poor job, didn’t finish on time)