What Happened in Vegas...

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Maynard himself writes craftily about his jail stint in articles posted on www.military.com, including one headlined "I was a Jailbird or 'Sitting Duck.'"

Say what you will about LifeLock, all this is evidence that its execs are masterful at getting publicity.

Robert J. Maynard Jr. is one of the smartest people his father has ever known.

Dr. Maynard, one of six members of the state's board of optometry, says his son possesses an extraordinary ability to predict the growth of future markets and to convince people that they should give him money.

Maynard Jr. was born in Phoenix in 1962 and went to Arizona State University for a time after graduating from Brophy College Preparatory. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps and was honorably discharged.

His father says Maynard Jr. eventually graduated from Northern Arizona University, burning with desire for the good life.

"It started when he was in college," Dr. Maynard says. "He didn't want the $20 pair of shoes. He wanted the $300 pair of shoes."

Three years after his first Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1990, Maynard's dream of getting rich was coming true. His credit-repair company, the National Credit Foundation, was raking in millions. But a few months after it started, state and federal authorities crashed the party.

New laws had been passed to deal with unscrupulous credit-repair firms that, at the time, seemed to be cropping up everywhere. Retired Tucson attorney John Wall, who handled the National Credit Foundation case on behalf of then-state Attorney General Grant Woods, says Maynard's firm was one of several the state targeted.

Court records show the state sued the firm, accusing Maynard and his three partners of fraud and misrepresentation. For one thing, the company falsely claimed it was a "foundation," a label that implied nonprofit status. It stated in advertising it could "help anyone legally obtain good credit," but it couldn't really do that. And it claimed, falsely, that it was operating legally.

State law required companies like Maynard's to pay the state a bond amount of $5,000 to $25,000, to notify customers of their right to cancel services, and to provide customers with written contracts and informational statements. National Credit Foundation failed to do those things, the state said.

At the time, Maynard denied any wrongdoing, saying his business had no customer complaints and was, indeed, legal. He accused Woods of trumping up the charges and trying to destroy all "credit restorative service" firms like his.

A judge soon forced the company to stop doing business and turn over customer records to investigators.

Wall says he remembers running into Maynard around that time in the checkout line at a Costco store. Maynard was friendly, despite the ongoing litigation, and introduced his wife and baby. But the veteran prosecutor views Maynard's niceness with cynicism.

"Oftentimes, people are selling even when under investigation," he says.

The FTC launched a parallel lawsuit, going after Maynard and his partners for producing and airing a misleading infomercial about the firm's services. That wasn't the worst of it.

Federal court records state that Maynard and the other defendants obtained their customers' banking information and, "in numerous instances . . . withdrew funds from consumers' checking accounts without authorization."

Gilbert resident Vincent Calabrese, listed as one of the firm's creditors because of owed back pay, says he worked for National Credit Foundation for about a year and was there at the end. He says he'll never forget how the "phone was just going nuts" in the last few weeks with customers reporting unauthorized debits on their bank accounts, usually for about $300 a whack.

"I don't know what happened. People were getting hit; their accounts were getting hit," he says. "I thought the information got out on these people on these accounts, and somebody used it."

He didn't suspect the company itself, he says.

"I was on three-way conversations with the bank and the people," Calabrese says. "These people were crying, practically, on the phone."

He also recalls that, sometime in the company's last few days of existence, a news reporter from a television network came in to interview Maynard for a story about the problems.

In a 1998 magazine article, Maynard blamed the National Credit Foundation debacle on the company that produced the infomercial, saying it tried to take over his business. As revenge, Maynard "killed his business" so the other company could not usurp it. The article states Maynard "strapped on a pistol and told his 300 employees to get out. Then he closed the office, declared Chapter 7 and sold everything."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.