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It’s unusual for an FTC court document to come with a warning label, but the allegations contained in a recent debt collection case against an outfit doing business as Rumson, Bolling & Associates aren’t for the faint of heart. According to the FTC, the defendants harassed debtors with abusive and profane language, including threats to harm their family members, kill their pets, and desecrate the bodies of their deceased loved ones. And that’s just for starters.
The complaint against individuals and companies affiliated with the California-based debt collection operation allege a host of other violations of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. “Deadbeat,” “scumbag,” “piece of crap,” and “lowlife” are among the few printable epithets defendants hurled at debtors. According to the complaint, when one person allegedly owed money to a funeral home after her sons died within a week of each other, the defendants threatened to dig up their bodies and deposit them on her doorstep. In another instance, defendants allegedly threatened to shoot — and eat — a person’s dog.
In addition, the FTC charged that the defendants illegally revealed people’s debts to third parties, including employers, co-workers, neighbors, and relatives, and falsely threatened to sue them, have them arrested, seize their property, and garnish their wages.
But debtors weren’t the only ones put through the wringer. Using the slogan “no recovery, no fee,” the defendants promised small businesses and other potential clients that they’d collect debts on a contingency basis, charging a fee only when they recovered money. But in many cases, said the FTC, the defendants collected from debtors on a client’s behalf and then simply pocketed the cash. In other instances, the defendants asked clients for money upfront purportedly for legal expenses to file a lawsuit that would “guarantee” the successful collection of the debt. Many small businesses paid the fees, but the defendants allegedly failed to file the promised lawsuits and the clients never received money in satisfaction of the debt.
A federal judge in California has entered a preliminary injunction and asset freeze. A court-appointed receiver is in place and the defendants’ debt collection operations have been halted.