Seven Additional Settlements Reached For Norvergence Customers

Attorney General Spitzer today announced settlements with seven additional financial institutions in connection with a widespread telecommunications fraud involving NorVergence, Inc., a bankrupt New Jersey-based telecommunications company.

Under the terms of the newly announced agreements, Popular Leasing USA, Inc.; Celtic Bank Corporation; Dolphin Capital Corp.; Liberty Bank Leasing; National City Commercial Capital Corporation, formerly known as (f/k/a); Information Leasing Corporation; Alfa Financial Corporation d/b/a OFC Capital; and Partners Equity Capital Company LLC d/b/a Commerce Commercial Leasing, LLC will forgive over $3.5 million in payments due from 159 New York customers, who signed long-term contracts with NorVergence. Pursuant to the agreements, six of the leasing companies have offered customers 87.5% to 90% forgiveness of their balances as of July 15, 2004 under the NorVergence Equipment Rental Agreements, while Popular Leasing USA, Inc. offered customers 80% to 100% forgiveness, based on when they signed their contracts.

"I would like to commend these financial institutions for offering relief to those small business owners who were duped by NorVergence’s false promise of savings," said Spitzer.

Thirteen other financial institutions previously reached agreements with the Attorney General’s office regarding leases they acquired from NorVergence. Including the settlements announced today, a total of 854 NorVergence customers from New York have received over $20 million in relief.

The chart below outlines the terms of the new settlements:

LEASING COMPANY

TOTAL DOLLARS FORGIVEN

SETTLEMENT THRESHOLD

Popular Leasing USA, Inc.

$1,519,545

80%- 100%

Partners Equity Capital Company, LLC

d/b/a Commerce Commercial Leasing, LLC

$573,761


87.5 - 90%

Liberty Bank Leasing

$53,322

87.5 - 90%

Celtic Bank Corporation

$35,498

87.5 - 90%

Alfa Financial Corporation

 d/b/a OFC Capital

$411,273

87.5 - 90%

National City Commercial Capital Corporation,f/k/a Information Leasing Corporation

$817,700

87.5 - 90%

Dolphin Capital Corp.

$129,788

87.5 - 90%

Under the settlement agreements, the financial institutions also are forgiving any late fees, penalties and property insurance charges imposed after termination of contracted services, and are crediting any payments made after service was terminated. The financial institutions will issue refunds to customers where payments exceeded amounts due under the settlements and will terminate all litigation and withdraw any adverse credit reports against former NorVergence customers who elect to participate in the settlements. Popular Leasing USA, Inc. will also offer substantially similar settlement terms to customers who have already settled on less favorable terms.

Notices regarding potential legal actions have also been previously sent by the Attorney General to Thomas Salzano and Peter Salzano, as officers of NorVergence, which was declared bankrupt in July 2004.

NorVergence began aggressively marketing its telecommunications products in 2002, promising potential customers savings of up to 60 percent. It attributed these savings to a proprietary "Matrix box," which the company claimed would provide customers with wireless, toll-free telephone service and high-speed internet connection, all for a fixed monthly fee. The equipment accomplished none of these functions.

NorVergence's sales force was trained to apply deceptive and high pressure sales tactics in recruiting prospective customers, who consisted largely of small businesses, not-for-profits and religious institutions. Nationally, the company secured approximately 11,000 customers including approximately 1,000 New Yorkers.

The company's customers typically signed five-year contracts, which the company then sold at a discount to third-party financial institutions. The financial institutions, in turn, billed customers under the original contract terms. These multi-year commitments purported to obligate customers to pay as much as $340,000 for the Matrix box, even though the device was worth no more than $1,500.

When a federal bankruptcy court declared NorVergence bankrupt in July 2004, customers were left without telecommunications services and had to purchase alternative service on a per call basis. Yet the financial institutions continued to bill customers, and in some instances sued to collect under the agreements.

Consumers wishing to file a complaint pertaining to a NorVergence telecommunications contract may contact the Attorney General's toll-free consumer helpline (800) 771-7755, or visit his website at www.ag.ny.gov.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Joy Feigenbaum, Shahla F. Ali, and Keith Gordon, under the direction of Thomas Conway, Chief of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, and Terryl Brown Clemons, Assistant Deputy Attorney General for the Division of Public Advocacy.

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