The man who ran a Maplewood company that promised debt relief to dozens of customers is behind bars today, accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the people he promised to help.
Germaine Theodore, the head of TGC Movement, surrendered to authorities today on a complaint-warrant filed by the Maplewood Police Department charging a single count of theft by deception.
The Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column profiled TGC Movement last month after readers claimed they were scammed by the company.
Theodore is currently in the Essex County Jail with bail set at $250,000.
The state alleges that Theodore ran TGC Movement and held himself out as a financial advisor/debt adjustor, advising customers he could reduce their monthly bills by as much as 35 percent in return for fees that ranged from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Theodore collected the fees up front, but never did anything to reduce the debt or monthly bills of his customers, the state alleges.
Customers said they enrolled in a program that TGC promised would lower their bills by 35 percent. TGC said the money that would be used to discount bills came from a combination of government programs and investments by private financiers.
About a week after The Star-Ledger’s story ran, Maplewood police reported 63 customer complaints, and they said the number was still rising.
Charlene Morrison said she plans to add her complaint to the list.
“He took my money and I have nothing to show for it,” said Morrison.
She said she signed on to the program after a friend of hers, who said she was both a client and a part-time employee of TGC, had success.
Morrison said the friend told her the TGC program would allow her to get a 35 percent discount on her bills. The discount was paid for by “investors in this program, rich people who were investing and [Theodore] was taking the money to assist people who needed help with their finances.”
The friend said the investors received tax write-offs for their contributions, Morrison said.
Morrison’s friend said she not only benefited as a debtor, but as someone who is owed money, too. The friend told Morrison that her tenant was helped by the program. The tenant owed $1,000 a month for rent, and with TGC’s help, the tenant paid $700 while TGC paid the remaining $300, Morrison said her friend told her.
“She came to my house and showed me the paperwork,” Morrison said. “She said, `Here are my bills he paid.'”
Morrison said she was skeptical and not struggling with her bills, but she said the promised 35 percent discount would free up money for other expenses. And because her friend said it worked for her, Morrison gave it a try.
She handed over two payments totaling $2,600 to TGC in late August.
But when she called her mortgage company on Sept. 16, she said, she learned the bill wasn’t paid.
This wasn’t Theodore’s first run-in with Maplewood police. Last week, police said they were called to TGC several times by customers who claimed they were being ripped off. Responding officers took Theodore into custody after they saw he had outstanding warrants: two in Maplewood for receiving stolen property and resisting arrest, one for deceptive business practices in Englewood and six others for traffic violations.
Before that, Theodore served more than 7 years for charges including passing bad checks, theft by deception, identity theft, sale of a false driver’s license, forgery and weapons charges.
If consumers wish to file a complaint, contact Maplewood Police, and call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846.