Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed suit against a career counseling company that allegedly deceived its clients to obtain advance fees for its services.

Madigans suit charges two corporations operating under the name Bernard Haldane and Associates with charging job-seekers hefty upfront fees for access to a supposed "secret job market" which in fact does not exist.

In a slow economy like ours, people out of work are highly hopeful and highly susceptible to claims that a high-paying job is available, Madigan said. This company inexcusably and illegally took advantage of its hard-working clients.

The defendants allegedly sold career counseling services to Illinois consumers by promising to match candidates with their ideal job and claiming to be selective about which clients they took on.

While the company mainly targeted middle- and upper-management job seekers, clients with less formal education were assured that a lack of education would not be an obstacle for finding a high-paying job. In addition, the company conducted psychological exams but had no one qualified to analyze the results of those tests.

Madigan said the defendants built up false hopes in their clients and then asked for money, taking a financial profile of each applicant and charging the clients varying amounts of money based on the liquid assets of each applicant. The fees ranged between $3,500 and $12,500 and unfairly charged different customers higher fees for the same service.

After making all of these allegedly false claims, Haldane employees never found employment for many of their clients.

Madigan noted the fees were collected from the consumers before any results were produced, and that the customers often remained unemployed. Haldane employees told their clients to refrain from looking for jobs during the program, decreasing the likelihood that they would find a job on their own.

The defendants are charged with numerous violations of the Consumer Fraud Act. Madigans suit seeks a permanent injunction against the defendants, a civil penalty of $50,000 for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Acton and restitution to the victims.

These suits highlight how people who very much want to work can be taken advantage of by con artists during tough economic times, Madigan said.

The suit names California-based DRB, Ltd. and Illinois-based Career Management, Inc., which together operate the counseling business under the Haldane name, and the individual salesmen working for Career Management, Inc.

The company issued a statement denying it had deceived job-skeers.

"Bernard Haldane Associates has successfully helped thousands of clients during its more than 20 years in Chicago. We remain deeply committed to assisting every client in achieving their career goals," the statement said.