Debt Collectors’ False Threats of Arrest and Jail in Maryland and elsewhere is a Crime: Multimillion-Dollar Debt Collection Scam That Targeted More Than 6,000 Victims In All 50 States

Abusive debt collectors falsely threatened Maryland and other consumers with arrest and jail. Now the owner of the firm, together with six of his employees, are under arrest for making false threats of arrest to consumers and pretending to work for the federal government. A press release by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York makes it clear that the threats were not made by “rogue” employees, but were part of the firm’s policy which had over 6,000 victims in all 50 states:

When FBI agents searched the WSA Office in May 2014, they recovered . . . scripts for calls with victims that contained numerous misrepresentations, including false threats of criminal charges and arrests, and false associations with the government. For example, the scripts included the following language:

“Who are we? We are a government task force set up to investigate and collect info on individuals involved in Depository Account Fraud and theft by deception.”

“This is investigator _____ I calling [sic] in reference to a complaint that has been filed through the national check fraud center were [sic] that stated that they have sent correspondents [sic] to ________ as well _______ and you have not responsed [sic] which has made your statue [sic] of limitations for your civil legal rights exhaust. That means that you are being pursued for one count of theft by deception and can be forwarded over to the local county for proceedings to start.”

“This message is for _______. My name is _______ from the investigation services of WSA. Currently there is a criminal complaint pending against you for theft of services. We are going ahead with legal proceedings today therefore we do need to speak with you immediately. Contact our office as soon as possible at [a particular telephone number] Ext ____. Thank you. Failure to respond will lead to criminal charges persude [sic] against you being forwarded over to your county.”

You can hear the debt collectors in action on recorded calls played as part of an NPR story. The call played in the NPR story concluded (as the press release makes clear) with the caller demanding that the 8 month pregnant consumer pay within two hours or “the case would be forwarded to Los Angeles County for the issuance of an arrest warrant.”  The debt collector had an estimated 6,000 victims nationwide and collected over $4 million.

The press release is available here, and the complaint is available here.