A.G. Schneiderman And Federal Officials Announce New Law Enforcement Partnership To Protect Military Community
First-of-its-Kind ROAM Database Will Combat Fraud Targeted At Military Members, Veterans or Families
Announcement Follows Schneiderman Action Securing $3.5 Million For Hundreds Of Debt-Ridden Servicemembers
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman joined officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Department of Defense, and the Federal Trade Commission today to announce the development of a database to combat consumer financial frauds directed at military members, veterans, or their families. The Repeat Offenders Against Military (ROAM) Database will track completed enforcement actions against companies and individuals who repeatedly scam military personnel.
Today’s announcement comes months after Attorney General Schneiderman secured a $3.5 million settlement against Rome Finance Co., Inc., an unlicensed lender. Rome solicited through storefronts, including “SmartBuy” in New York, that targeted servicemembers for sales and financing of high-priced electronics. The servicemembers were locked into Rome’s high interest revolving credit contracts, which resulted in the troops paying undisclosed fees and incurring massive debt. Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation revealed that this network was targeting servicemembers not only in New York, but also in California, Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and even overseas.
"The ROAM Database will allow us to act much more quickly to stop fraud against members of the military," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Had the ROAM Database existed during our investigation of SmartBuy, we likely could have shut them down more quickly and saved countless servicemembers thousands of dollars each. This database will be an important tool in our ongoing, comprehensive effort to crack down on those unscrupulous individuals who prey on the men and women who serve our country."
“As a former Ohio Attorney General, I know how frustrating it is to expose a scam and then see it take root in another state. The ROAM Database will help law enforcement crack down on frauds that cross state lines,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “ROAM is a huge step forward in our mission to improve consumer protection for the military community.”
Law enforcement officials across the country, including state Attorneys General, United States Attorneys, and Judge Advocates (JAGs) from all five branches of the armed forces, will be able to search the ROAM Database for publicly available information about completed civil and criminal legal actions against perpetrators of financial scams against military personnel, veterans, or their families.
“During my visits to military bases across the country, I have heard too many stories of servicemembers and veterans being defrauded by businesses that see our troops as easy targets for a quick profit. This database will help law enforcers stop some of the worst offenders – those that have made a habit of targeting our men and women in uniform and our veterans,” said Holly Petraeus, CFPB’s Assistant Director, Office of Servicemember Affairs.
“The men and women of the Armed Forces are doing tremendous work to protect American freedom and values overseas and deserve to know we have their back here at home. Attorney General Schneiderman’s work has meant a great deal to the soldiers at Fort Drum and other service members across the country. I applaud these efforts to help protect members of the military from unscrupulous business practices and bring those bad actors to justice,” said Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh).
“The creation of the ROAM Database is a smart, creative way to protect the military community from fraud. Attorney General Schneiderman is to be commended for working to protect service members and veterans from unscrupulous consumer scams,” said Senator William J. Larkin (R-Cornwall-on-Hudson), who serves on the Committee for Veterans, Homeland Security & Military Affairs
ROAM will complement the Military Sentinel network, which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) created to gather consumer complaints. FTC Commissioner Julie Brill praised the creation of the new database, saying, “The ROAM Database will enable greater collaboration among enforcement attorneys at the FTC and other Federal and state agencies. We see ROAM and Consumer Sentinel as complementary bookends: Consumer Sentinel at the beginning of the enforcement process, and the ROAM Database at the end. I expect that the enforcement staff at the FTC will be eager to use the ROAM Database and to contribute information to make the records as complete as possible.”
According to Col. Paul Kantwill, Director of the Office of Legal Policy for the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “Almost every day, servicemembers come to our Judge Advocate Attorneys for help and advice after finding themselves victims of a financial fraud. We are grateful for the work of CFPB and the New York Attorney General on behalf of military families and we strongly encourage JAGs use and contribute to the ROAM Database.”