State banking regulators filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Hauppauge-based Condor Capital Corp., saying the subprime auto lender bilked millions of dollars from low-income customers.
The state Department of Financial Services accused the company of a "long-standing scheme to steal funds" in a 22-page complaint, filed in Manhattan under a provision of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act that equips states with the power to enforce the federal consumer protection law.
"The defendants bilked millions of dollars from vulnerable borrowers who could least afford it," state Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky said. "We are taking swift action today to stop them from abusing any more consumers."
The complaint also names Condor's owner, Stephen Baron, as a defendant. Shortly after Lawsky filed the suit, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against Condor, essentially freezing the company's operations.
A receptionist who answered the phone at Condor said the company had no comment. Efforts to contact Baron directly were unsuccessful.
Founded in 1996, Condor specializes in lending to low-income borrowers who lack the credit history or financial wherewithal to qualify for a conventional loan. Yet, authorities say the company systematically pocketed money from them when they inadvertently overpaid their accounts.
For example, borrowers sometimes wound up paying Condor more than they owed when they traded in their vehicles or received insurance settlements to cover wrecked cars. Or, in some cases, they simply wrote too big a check for their final payment.
Instead of refunding that cash, Condor immediately closed borrowers' online accounts, leaving them unable to see whether they were owed money, authorities said. Regulators also accuse Condor of recklessly storing customers' personal information, saying investigators found sensitive data lying around common areas of Condor's offices.
As part of its legal action, the state is trying to force Condor to repay customers and fold up its operations.