BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A federal judge has put the brakes on abusive Buffalo debt collectors, ordering them to stop telling borrowers they face prison for check fraud and making other false threats.
The injunction, sought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Federal Trade Commission, freezes assets of the collection operation and gives temporary control to a court-appointed receiver.
This was a joint effort of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Federal Trade Commission.. cracking down on “rogue debt collectors”–as they call them–the collectors using whatever phone harassment or threats they could come up with to extract money from consumers.
Assistant Attorney General Jim Morrissey played a recording of one of the abusive debt collectors threatening to go after a nurse’s job, if she did not pay a debt, “Guess what? I know you are a nurse. Guess what? You are about to lose your professional license.”
Morrissey said, it offered a look at how the collectors harassed consumers, “I think it would be fair to say that there is not one accurate or true thing in the recording.”
Morrissey cites that short 35-second recording as an example of the abusive debt collection practices of this company, that went by many names, including eCapital Services, and the National Check Registry, located in the Ellicott Square Building downtown.
But Morrissey adds, what the collectors threatened to do is illegal, too, “that they have gone to the consumer’s supervisor, which is absolutely not permitted under the law. They have threatened this consumer with loss of her nursing license–absolutely not permitted under the law.”
The Attorney General, and the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the companies, and three executives, Joseph Bella and Luis Shaw of Buffalo, and Diane Bella of Florida.
The lawsuit resulted in a preliminary injunction–in effect putting a stop to their abusive practices.
The injunction was issued in federal court by Judge Richard Arcara, who also appointed a receiver, freezing the company’s assets, and pretty taking over the business.
In some cases, Morrissey said, consumers didn’t owe money at all, “But when you are threatened with arrest, when you are threatened with wage garnishment, when you are threatened with a processor showing up at your place of employment to serve you with process for passing fraudulent checks, it scares you.”
Morrissey added, innocent consumers would sometimes pay up just to stop the constant intimidation.
Documents filed in U.S. District Court supporting the lawsuit indicate the abusive debt collectors cleared nearly $9 million dollars over a 4-year period.