Pennsylvania Complaint Against Check and Credit Reporting, Inc. and Southern Tier Agency, Inc. for Harassing Multiple Consumers and Violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA)

July 24th, 2012 by krista

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

 Jane Doe, John Doe, Jane Doe and John Doe             Plaintiffs, v. 

CHECK & CREDIT REPORTING, INC. and SOUTHERN TIER AGENCY, INC.

 

            Defendants.

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  Civil Action No.

 Complaint

1. This is an action for damages brought by an individual consumers for      Defendants’ violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. (hereafter the “FDCPA”), and other common law claims.  These laws prohibit debt collectors from engaging in abusive, deceptive, and unfair collection practices.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  1. Jurisdiction of this Court arises under 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d), 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1337, and supplemental jurisdiction exists for the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
  2. Venue lies in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

PARTIES

  1. Plaintiff is an adult individual residing in North Carolina.
  2. Plaintiff is an adult individual residing in Texas.
  3. Plaintiff is an adult individual residing in Ohio.
  4. Plaintiff is an adult individual residing in California.
  5. Defendants Check & Credit Reporting, Inc. (“CCR”) and Southern Tier Agency, Inc. (“STA”) (collectively “Defendants”) are business entities under common ownership which regularly conduct business in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with its principal office located at265 George Urban Blvd. Depew, New York 14043.  The principal purpose of Defendants is the collection of debts already in default using the mails and telephone, and Defendants regularly attempts to collect said debts.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS 

  1. At all pertinent times hereto, Defendants was hired to collect a debts alleged to be owed by Plaintiffs (hereafter the “debts”).
  2. The alleged debts at issue arose out of transactions which were primarily for personal, family or household purposes.
  3. Defendants, inter alia, as matter of policy and practice have been contacting Plaintiffs and making false threats that Plaintiffs would be arrested or imprisoned for failing to may payment on the debts at issue as set forth in greater detail below.

As To Plaintiff #1

  1. On or about July 20, 2011, a representative from CCR contacted Plaintiff at her place of employment in an attempt to collect the debt with the intent to annoy, abuse, and harass Plaintiff.  During this call, CCR’s representative identified himself as Marshall Cooper with the Sheriff’s office.  During the call, CCR’s representative advised Plaintiff that she was being taken to court for writing bad checks and could be “locked up”.  CCR’s representative falsely threatened that he was intending to serve Plaintiff with papers at Plaintiff place of employment to embarrass her and then proposed personally meeting Plaintiff with papers at some other location.  CCR’s representative then stated that he would hold off serving Plaintiff with papers for an hour so Plaintiff could pay the debt immediately.
  2. Notwithstanding the above, on or about July 20, 2011, Plaintiff called CCR back out of fear that she would be arrested.  During this conversation, CCR’s representative misrepresented to her that CCR had already conducted a background investigation against her and that if Plaintiff did not pay the debt that day, that CCR would “send the paperwork out and that Plaintiff would be taken to court for writing bad checks.”
  3. During that same telephone call, Plaintiff requested to speak with a supervisor.  CCR’s representative, who identified herself as “Mrs. Long” came onto the telephone and again advised Plaintiff that if she did not pay the debt that day, that the paperwork would go out.

As To Plaintiff #2

  1. On or about July 8, 2011, Plaintiff paid off the debt at issue in full with the another debt collector, ACS, and received correspondence from ACS confirming the same.
  2. Notwithstanding the above, in or around July 2011 shortly after having paid off the debt, CCR then began contacting Plaintiff on his home telephone in an attempt to collect the same debt and left a voicemail advising Plaintiff that he was going to be served with papers to appear in court.
  3. Plaintiff then called CCR in response to the above message and advised CCR that he had previously paid the debt off in full with ACS.
  4. Notwithstanding the above, CCR nonetheless continued to contact Plaintiff in an attempt to collect the debt with the intent to annoy, abuse and harass Plaintiff on multiple occasions.  On at least four of these occasions, Plaintiff repeatedly advised CCR’s representatives that he had settled the debt in full with ACS.
  5. Notwithstanding the above, in or around July 2011, a representative of CCR identifying herself as “Katie Williams” left a voicemail message for Plaintiff advising him that he would be “going to jail” because criminal charges were being brought against him.

As To Plaintif #3

  1. In or around July 2011, STA contacted Plaintiff to coerce payment of the debt with the intent to annoy, abuse, and harass her.  STA’s representative told Plaintiff that she must pay the full amount of the debt immediately, and if she failed to do so, she and her husband would be arrested.  Terrified of both her and her husband being arrested and incarcerated, Plaintiff authorized STA to debit $25 from her checking account.
  2. Notwithstanding the above, the next day, STA contacted Plaintiff again to coerce payment of the debt with the intent to annoy, abuse, and harass her.  STA’s representative again threatened that if Plaintiff did not make an immediate payment on the debt she and her husband would be incarcerated.  Plaintiff did not have any additional funds to pay the loan and told STA’s representatives that she had made a payment the day before.  STA’s representative again threatened to arrest the Plaintiff and her husband.
  3. Notwithstanding the above, on or about July 25, 2011, STA completed an additional and unauthorized electronic fund transfer to deduct funds from Plaintiff’s checking account resulting in Plaintiff being charged overdraft fees from her bank, and causing other checks, including her rent, to be returned for insufficient funds.  Plaintiff contacted STA and requested that the additional unauthorized debit be refunded to her account, and STA refused.
  4. Notwithstanding the above, STA again contacted Plaintiff again to coerce payment of the debt with the intent to annoy, abuse, and harass her.  STA’s representative again threatened that if Plaintiff did not make an immediate payment on the debt she and her husband would be incarcerated.  Plaintiff  asked that STA cease contacting her and that she only be contacted through U.S. Mail in the future.
  5. Notwithstanding the above, throughout the following months of August 2011, September 2011 and October 2011, STA continued to contact Plaintiff, sometimes as many as seven (7) times per day, and always multiple times per week, in an attempt to coerce payment of the debt with the intent to annoy, abuse, and harass her.

As To Plaintiff #4

  1. In or around February 2012, CCR contacted Plaintiff in an attempt to collect the debt. During this conversation, CCR’s representative advised Plaintiff that CCR had sent Plaintiff a summons and that Plaintiff would be facing jail time if he did not pay the debt.
  2. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by communicating with any person and refusing to identify himself or herself.
  3. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by communicating with any person other than the consumer and stating that the consumer owes a debt;
  4. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by engaging in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt;
  5. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number;
  6. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by using false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.
  7. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by falsely representing or implying that the debt collector is affiliated with the United States or any State;
  8. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by falsely representing the character, amount, or legal status of any debt.
  9. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by falsely representing or implying that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney.
  10. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by representing or implying that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector intends to take such action.
  11. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by threatening to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken.
  12. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by falsely representing or implying that the consumer committed any crime or other conduct to disgrace the consumer.
  13. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by using any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain any information concerning a consumer.
  14. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by falsely representing or implying that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency.
  15. Defendants acted in a false, deceptive, misleading and unfair manner by using unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.
  16. Defendants knew or should have known that their actions violated the FDCPA. Additionally, Defendants could have taken the steps necessary to bring their agent’s actions within compliance of these statutes, but neglected to do so and failed to adequately review those actions to insure compliance with said laws.
  17. At all times pertinent hereto, Defendants were acting by and through their agents, servants and/or employees, who were acting within the scope and course of their employment, and under the direct supervision and control of Defendants herein.
  18. At all times pertinent hereto, the conduct of Defendants as well as its agents, servants and/or employees, was malicious, intentional, willful, reckless, negligent and in wanton disregard for federal and state law and the rights of the Plaintiffs herein.
  19. As a result of Defendants’ conduct, Plaintiffs have sustained actual damages, including, but not limited to injury to Plaintiffs’ reputation, invasion of privacy, damage to Plaintiffs credit, out-of-pocket expenses, emotional and mental pain and anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, damage to reputation and pecuniary loss and will continue to suffer same for an indefinite time in the future, all to thier great detriment and loss.

Count I – ALL DEFENDANTS

Violations of the FDCPA

  1. Plaintiffs incorporates the foregoing paragraphs as though the same were set forth at length herein.
  2. Defendants are “debt collectors” as defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6) of the FDCPA.
  3. Plaintiffs are “consumers” as defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(3) of the FDCPA.
  4. The above contacts between Defendants and Plaintiffs were “communications” relating to “debts” as defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(2) and 1692a(5) of the FDCPA.
  5. Defendants violated the FDCPA.  Defendants’ violations include, but are not limited to, violations of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692b(1), 1692b(2), 1692d, 1692d(5),  1692e, 1692e(1), 1692e(2)(A), 1692e(3), 1692e(4), 1692e(5), 1692e(7), 1692e(10), 1692e(16), and 1692f, as evidenced by the following conduct:

(a)                Communicating with any person and refusing to identify himself or herself;

(b)               Communicating with any person other than the consumer and stating that the consumer owes a debt;

(c)                Engaging in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt;

(d)               Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number;

(e)                Using false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt;

(f)                Falsely representing or implying that the debt collector is affiliated with the United States or any State;

(g)               Falsely representing the character, amount, or legal status of any debt;

(h)               Falsely representing or implying that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney;

(i)                 Representing or implying that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector intends to take such action;

(j)                 Threatening to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken;

(k)               Falsely representing or implying that the consumer committed any crime or other conduct in order to disgrace the consumer;

(l)                 Using any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer;

(m)             Falsely representing or implying that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency; and

(n)               Using unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.

  1. Defendants’ acts as described above were done with intentional, willful, reckless, wanton and negligent disregard for Plaintiffs’ rights under the law and with the purpose of coercing Plaintiffs to pay the alleged debt.
  2. As a result of the above violations of the FDCPA, Defendants are liable to Plaintiffs in the sum of Plaintiffs’ statutory damages, actual damages and attorney’s fees and costs.

Count II – Invasion of Privacy

  1. Plaintiffs incorporates the foregoing paragraphs as though the same were set forth at length herein.
  2. Defendant’s conduct, including  but not limited to threatening to come to a consumer’s workplace, attempting to collect a debt that a consumer does not owe, threatening consumers with criminal charges, threatening consumers that they would be arrested, threatening consumers that they would be sent to jail,  and accessing a consumer’s bank account without permission or consent constitutes an invasion of privacy.
  3. The conduct of Defendants were a direct and proximate cause, as well as a substantial factor, in bringing about the serious injuries, damages and harm to Plaintiffs that are outlined more fully above and, as a result, Defendants are liable to compensate the Plaintiffs for the full amount of actual, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as such other relief, permitted under the law.

COUNT III – ALL DEFENDANTS

INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

  1. Plaintiffs incorporates the foregoing paragraphs as though the same were set forth at length herein.
  2. As a result of Defendants’ extreme and outrageous conduct, which includes threatening to arrest, imprison and/or bring criminal charges against Plaintiffs and/or their families if payment was not immediately made, Plaintiffs sustained severe emotional distress as more fully outlined above.
  3. Due to the reckless and intentional conduct of the Defendants, it was foreseeable that Plaintiffs would suffer severe emotional distress and harm to their physical and psychological well-being to the present day, as fully outlined above.
  4. Defendants’ conduct was a direct and proximate cause, as well as a substantial factor, in causing the serious injuries, damages and harm to the Plaintiffs that are outlined more fully above, and as a result Defendants are liable to compensate Plaintiffs for the full amount of statutory, actual and punitive damages, as well as such other relief, permitted by law.

COUNT III

BY Plaintiff #3 AGAINST SOUTHERN TIER AGENCY

CONVERSION 

  1. Plaintiff  incorporates the foregoing paragraphs as though the same were set forth at length herein.
  2. Plaintiff possessed the right to the above-described property, namely her checking account.
  3. The checking account containing chattel in the form of money assets possessed solely by Plaintiff and under Plaintiff’s sole control.
  4. Defendant STA unlawfully deprived Plaintiff of her right to the above chattel and/or interfered with Plaintiff’s use and possession of the chattel by creating a bank draft in Plaintiff’s name and debiting funds from Plaintiff’s bank account absent Plaintiff’s knowledge or consent.
  5. Defendant STA has acted willfully to interfere with Plaintiff’s property, without lawful justification, and has deprived her of the use and possession of the assets of her checking account.
  6. Defendant STA’s conduct was a direct and proximate cause, as well as a substantial factor, in causing the serious injuries, damages and harm to the Plaintiff that are outlined more fully above, and as a result Defendant STA is liable to compensate Plaintiff for the full amount of actual and punitive damages, as well as such other relief, permitted by law.

JURY TRIAL DEMAND

  1. Plaintiffs demand trial by jury on all issues so triable.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully prays that relief be granted as follows:

(a)    Actual damages;

(b)   Statutory damages;

(c)    Punitive damages;

(d)   Costs and reasonable attorney’s fees; and

(e)    Such other and further relief as may be just and proper.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

 

FRANCIS & MAILMAN, P.C.

BY:    /s/ Mark D. Mailman

MARK D. MAILMAN, ESQUIRE

GREGORY J. GORSKI, ESQUIRE

Land Title Building, 19th Floor

100 South Broad Street

Philadelphia, PA 19110

(215) 735-8600

 

Attorneys for Plaintiffs


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