In the face of more than 2,000 consumer complaints, the FTC has asked a U.S. District court to order a halt to the harassing, intimidating, deceptive, and illegal ‘debt collection’ practices of Capital Acquisitions & Management (CAMCO). At the agency’s request, the court has frozen the assets of the company and its principals and appointed a receiver to oversee the corporate records and assets, pending trial. The FTC will seek a permanent halt to the illegal threats and lies the defendants use to attempt to collect “time-barred” debts – debts so old that they are beyond the statute of limitations, and cannot appear on credit reports – and debts consumers never incurred and did not owe.
In March 2004, the FTC charged that CAMCO, RM Financial, and their principals were threatening and harassing thousands of consumers to get them to pay old, unenforceable debts or debts they did not owe. The agency alleged that their abusive and deceptive collection practices violated federal law, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The companies and individuals paid a $300,000 civil penalty to settle the FTC charges, and were barred from engaging in abusive, deceptive, and illegal collection practices in the future.
In the eight months since that settlement, the FTC has received more than 2,000 consumer complaints about CAMCO’s illegal tactics – three times more than the agency received in the two years before the settlement.
In papers filed with the court, the agency charged that as much as 80 percent of the money CAMCO collects comes from consumers who never owed the original debt in the first place. Many consumers pay the money to get CAMCO to stop threatening and harassing them, their families, their friends, and their co-workers.
According to the FTC, CAMCO buys old debt lists that frequently contain no documentation about the original debt and in many cases no Social Security Number for the original debtor. CAMCO makes efforts to find people with the same name in the same geographic area and tries to collect the debt from them – whether or not they are the actual debtor. In papers filed with the court, the FTC alleges that CAMCO agents told consumers – even consumers who never owed the money – that they were legally obligated to pay. They told consumers that if they did not pay, CAMCO could have them arrested and jailed, seize their property, garnish their wages, and ruin their credit. All of those threats were false, according to the FTC.
According to the FTC, grossly abusive behavior, including shouting and profanity, are commonplace tactics with CAMCO. Collectors told consumers:
CAMCO collectors also ignored restrictions on who and when they could call.
The FTC suit asks the court to order a permanent bar on the operation’s illegal activities and order redress for consumers.
In addition to CAMCO, the complaint names RM Financial Services, Inc., Capital Properties Holdings, Inc., Caribbean Asset Management, Ltd., Reese Waugh, Jerome Kuebler, Eric Woldoff, George Othon, and Jeffrey Garrington.
CAMCO’s offices are located in Rockford and Schaumberg, Illinois. RM Financial is based in Marietta, Georgia. Caribbean Asset Management is based in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, in Chicago, Illinois.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint and legal documents related to an earlier settlement with CAMCO and individual defendants are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.