Texas has shut down a planned seminar scheduled last Saturday at an Austin hotel that promised hurricane victims and others the complete elimination of debt in exchange for a $5,000 up-front deposit.

The company, through a Web site known as Bankopp.com, required the wiring of the one-time deposit to initiate the process that would allow the consumer to become debt-free by December. Those interested were to have been given details at the Austin seminar, which was never held.

This is an example of the kind of outlandish fraud targeting hurricane victims and others in debt that I am eager to pursue in court, said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Those unfortunate Texans who are beset with indebtedness due to recent disasters have legitimate channels in place that can help them. These bogus operators have nothing to offer but more misfortune and heartache.

Bankopp.com and operators David J. West, Roxana Suadi West and Carlos M. Suadi were ordered by a Travis County District Court to immediately cease a planned seminar scheduled for Saturday.

The operators canceled the event and fled the scene when they were informed by hotel security that the Attorney General had filed this action. The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until Oct. 12, when a temporary injunction hearing is set.

The Bankopp.com operation, using the corporate name Pydia, Inc., promised the elimination of debt by December with the help of an unidentified national bank specializing in debt forgiveness. The defendants claimed the scheme was possible because the bank would profit from the venture through fractional banking or debt forgiveness banking practices.

However, to become enrolled, consumers would be required to wire a one-time $5,000 fee to an account in the name of Del Sur International Holdings, which the Attorney Generals investigators traced to Panama.

Bankopp.com referred to the deposit as a placeholder, giving the consumer an opportunity to retain his or her place in line to ensure debt erasure by the bank. The bank would then use the deposit to defray the costs of the entire process of eliminating debt.

Once the cumulative debt of applicants reached $100 million, then the bank would begin making loans to pay off individual debts. Once a consumer paid off his debt, the loan would be forgiven.

The defendants supposedly hatched the plan in late September, using various media to publicize a toll-free number to the Bank Opportunity Information Line and urging consumers to call the number and attend the free open seminars.

The defendants ramped up their campaign via radio commercials in southern states after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Attorney General sent a warning to the states of Louisiana and Tennessee about the company and its practices.

The lawsuit seeks restitution to consumers who paid this deposit via wire transfer, as well as civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, attorneys fees and investigative costs.