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Consumer Update: Daly and Sinnott “Law Centers for Consumer Protection”
January 27, 2003 - The Law Centers for Consumer Protection (also the Daly and Sinnott Law Centers or "DSLC") is now a debtor in bankruptcy under Bankruptcy Code Chapter 7. As of Monday, January 27, 2003, it ceased operation, and no longer represents clients of the firm. The bankruptcy filing is at the Bankruptcy Court of the United States District Court (federal court) for the District of Vermont, which is located at:
The phone number for the court is 802-776-2000.
The court’s website, which has a special link with information about the DSLC bankruptcy, is http://www.vtb.uscourts.gov/.
The case docket number for the DSLC bankruptcy filing is 03-10011.
In February, 2002, the Vermont Attorney General’s office sued DSLC, as well as several individuals alleged to be its principals or active in its management, including Howard Sinnott, Andrew Capoccia, and Tom Daly. The Attorney General alleged in the civil suit that the firm’s so-called “debt reduction program” was an unfair and deceptive scheme that violated stated consumer protection and debt adjustment laws. The Bennington Superior Court last fall denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case and allowed it to proceed on the state’s allegations. The attorneys general of North Carolina and New York have also sued the firm in civil actions alleging consumer fraud among other violations of law. Last fall, a North Carolina court ordered that the firm cease representing consumers in that state.
On March 10, 2003, a federal grand jury, in connection with a criminal investigation led by the United States Attorney in Vermont, handed down charges of mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit those offenses, against Sinnott, Daly, Capoccia and four other individuals involved in DSLC’s debt reduction program or its alleged predecessor operated out of Albany, New York by some of the same individuals. Those charges are now pending in addition to the civil actions that have been filed.
Claims for money owed to consumers by the firm should be made to the bankruptcy court. Strict deadlines apply (for example, the deadline for returning completed and valid proofs of claim on the court’s form is June 30, 2003), and consumers who wish to make claims should contact that court for information on the process to follow. On March 31, 2003, there was a “meeting of creditors” at the bankruptcy court in Rutland. The meeting was adjourned and will be continued on May 7, 2003 at the Bankruptcy Court at the old Opera House in Rutland. Consumer-creditors are permitted, but by no means required, to attend. Whether or not consumers attend that meeting, they will need to file the required proof of claim forms on time with the bankruptcy court in order to receive any money from the defunct firm’s estate.
The bankruptcy court judge has appointed John Canney III, a Rutland attorney, as the bankruptcy trustee. Subject to the supervision of the bankruptcy court, he will be responsible initially for gathering the assets of the firm and distributing it in some fashion to those who are owed money by the firm. In addition to any assets the firm may have had on hand at the time the bankruptcy petition was ordered by the court, there is also more than $2 million that was seized by federal prosecutors last year and may ultimately be distributed to consumers, subject to various court proceedings. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that consumers will receive back much more than a fraction of what they have deposited with the firm through this process.
Mr. Canney, as well as Howard Sinnott, who was the firm's principal attorney, has told our office that prior to the firm's closure, it ceased processing automatic debit payments from consumers. Following his appointment, Mr. Canney closed the firm’s checking accounts into which consumer deposits were being made. Consumers are nevertheless advised to take steps with their own banks to make certain that no further debits are made from their accounts to the firm.
Consumers are advised to contact attorneys in their own states for advice on how to proceed with their creditors or to seek new representation on any other matters that they may have had pending with DSLC. For advice or referrals to appropriate attorneys and debt counselors, they should contact banking officials, the Attorney General, or the consumer assistance program of the state where they reside.
Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.