Court orders against 13 related corporate and individual defendants involved in a Georgia-based debt collection operation bring to mind the 1980s chart-topping group from Australia, Crowded House. That’s because now that Advanced Mediation Group’s enterprise has been shuttered, the FTC’s “house” of individuals and corporations banned for life from the debt collection industry just got a little more crowded.
According to the FTC, one of the defendants’ signature tactics was to falsely accuse consumers of a crime, leaving them with the impression that arrest and imprisonment were imminent. The defendants would threaten that a “uniformed officer” was heading toward the person’s home or workplace or that they would be served with court documents unless they paid up immediately.
What made matters even worse is that in many instances, the browbeaten consumers didn’t owe the defendants any money in the first place.
When consumers questioned the validity of the debt or attempted to assert their legal rights, the FTC says the defendants ratcheted up the rancor. For example, according to the defendants’ written scripts, some consumers were told they’d get relevant documents at their “180/80 hearing,” a reference to the preliminary stage of a New York state felony prosecution. The defendants even had a comeback for people who reported that the debt was the result of identity theft. According to the FTC, the defendants gave the consumer 24 hours to pay or else their account would be filed as a “willful invasion.”
In addition to FTC Act violations, the complaint charged the defendants with multiple violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Specifically, the FTC says the defendants made misrepresentations to consumers about purported debts, falsely threatened that non-payment would result in arrest or imprisonment, illegally told third parties about those so-called debts, and failed to give consumers notices the law requires – all conduct that violates the FDCPA.
The FTC obtained settlements from Lamar Snow, Jahaan McDuffie, Glentis Wallace, Global Processing Solutions, LLC, Intrinsic Solutions, LLC, Diverse Financial Enterprises, Inc., North Center Collections, Inc., Capital Security Investments, LLC, and American Credit Adjusters, LLC. A default judgment also was entered against Advanced Mediation Group, LLC, Apex National Services, LLC, Mirage Distribution, LLC, and Mitchell & Maxwell, LLC. The orders include a financial judgment of $3.46 million, which will be partially suspended with respect to the settling defendants when they turn over real estate holdings and the proceeds of multiple bank accounts. Another key part of the orders is that those 13 defendants have been banned for life from the debt collection industry.
Which brings us back to Crowded House. When these defendants “move in” to the FTC Home for Banned Debt Collectors, it will bring the total occupancy up to 177 individuals and corporations permanently ousted from the industry as a result of FTC law enforcement.