Woman Wins $10 Million Judgement Against Collections Agency, Has Trouble Collecting

Last year, a woman in West Virginia won a $10 million lawsuit against a collections agency she’d accused of using deception and threats in an attempt to collect a non-existent debt. But considering that no one from the agency even showed up at the trial, it seems unlikely that she’ll ever see a nickel.

It all began two years ago, the woman tells ABC’s Nightline, when she received a call from the collections folks implying that her property could be seized if she didn’t pay back a debt… a debt she says is a complete fabrication.

“They threatened to take legal action against our property and it wasn’t even our debt,” she recalls.

The woman fired off a cease-and-desist letter. By law, the only contact the collections people should have had with her after that point was to confirm receipt of the letter and/or to notify her of legal action.

But, says the woman, she began receiving hang-up calls and almost immediately. The caller ID on her phone listed the local sheriff’s office as the source of the calls, but she soon learned the number had been spoofed. She also found anecdotal evidence online of the debt collector doing this to others.

She eventually filed suit and won a default judgement of more than $10 million — the largest ever against a single collections agency — after the collections people failed to show up in court.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever collect a dime,” she tells Nightline, “but if I can get their operation shut down, that would make me very happy.”

Even her lawyer says he took the case knowing full-well he could not end up with any cash to show for his efforts.

“Yes, I like to make money, ” he says, “but at some level there’s something so atrocious you have to let people come into your office and say — that’s wrong and I’m going to do something about it.”

A lawyer representing the principals calls the judgement “unfair” and tells Nightline, “My clients say it is not their policy to engage in conduct that violates the law.”

Perhaps the best part of this story is that these collections scammers picked the wrong person to auto-dial.

Back in 1999, this same West Virginia woman won a class action lawsuit against a telemarketer whose salesmen refused to quit calling customers who had requested the calls be stopped. After that incident, the woman learned to record all her calls.

She adds, “I’m a mom, and I’m a housewife, and I’m an accidental activist.”

W. Va. Woman Fights to Collect $10 Million from Debt Collector [ABC]

Thanks to CJ for the tip!

Comments

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  1. VintageLydia says:

    I like this lady! Too bad she’ll likely never see her money.

  2. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Sounds like she needs to hire (wait for it)…
    A collection agency!!!

    Don’t forget to tip your barmaid.

  3. Joseph S Ragman says:

    Time to contact the local sheriff and seize the property …

  4. krantcents says:

    Although I hope she collects, she won in principle. I hope the judge awarded her fees too.

  5. Nighthawke says:

    “He said, She said…” Bub, you need to learn to keep your clients on the straight and narrow or walk on.

  6. ThunderRoad says:

    She should just sell the debt to a collection agency for 5cents on the dollar. Make collecting someone else’s problem. :)

  7. william says:

    just find out where they operate, get the court to have the judge order the sheriffs to enforce and confiscate all their property for public auction.

    what goes around comes around.

    • JJFIII says:

      Unfortunately, the only thing she can collect are assets of the corporation. The corporation will dissolve and presto no more assets. They could also declare bankruptcy. These fly by night operations can not be hurt financially, they need to have the owners and any employee involved prosecuted. I would love to see a law that forces ANY collection agency to have a bond or insurance of say $100 million. The corporate officers then put their names on it for these types of situations.

      • Velifer says:

        Who would dissolve a corporation? Under the law, that’s dissolving a person, and that sounds like MURDER.

        • LabGnome says:

          No, no. You forgot corporations are only people when it is beneficial to be one and are only corporations when it is beneficial to be one.

          You can’t dissolve a persoration!

      • Geekybiker says:

        You need a forensic accountant to look at their files. If they have done anything improper the owners will lose the protection of corporation and you can go after them personally. Given how shady they are, chances are there is something.

      • Firethorn says:

        Thing is, the corporation now has a judgement against it. Unless it’s already bankrupt, she’s at the head of the line for collecting any assets that would be distributed as part of the dissolvement.

        About the only people higher would be the employees, for work up to that period, which there should be insurance/bond to ensure they get paid.

        If it’s a small enough corp to quickly dissolve like that, she’d be able to go after the executives.

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I like this. If I could ever figure out where Rachel is, I’d sue her too.

    • Grodoro says:

      Me, too. I’ve gotten almost a dozen calls from “her” in the last week. I’m self-employed, with contacts in most of the lower 48, so I don’t have the option to just stop answering my phone if I don’t recognize the number. I just want the calls to stop.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I can’t do it either because I’m job hunting and can’t just not answer; also I don’t have caller ID because AT&T charges extra for it (landline). That’s the number they always call. I usually just cuss at the bot and hang up.

      • NewsMuncher says:

        I wonder if Mey would accept a friend request on Facebook? Then, when I get calls like that, I can say I’m friends with her.

    • Emilliy says:

      Does anyone know Rachel’s address so I can send a cease-and-desist letter to her.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        I wish! I always check out the weird numbers that show up on my caller ID during the day while I’m at work, and according to 800notes it belongs to a medical collection agency. I don’t owe any money. I hope they try to scam me, because I’m ready to sue to make a statement.

      • Emperor Norton I says:

        David Lazarus of the LA Times found “Rachel”!
        http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/29/business/la-fi-lazarus-20111129

        She’s in Arizona but her name is really Chris Ambrosia of Ambrosia Web Services.

  9. SilverBlade2k says:

    Step 1: a collection agency
    If step 1 fails..
    Step 2: Sheriff’s office, seize property.

  10. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    Alas, the plaintiff in this case will never see a dime of this money. Seeing as the defendants in this case never bothered to show up in court — therefore getting a default judgment — I’m guessing if she calls the sheriff to the address that she may have for this collection agency, that sheriff will likely find an empty room, complete with a bailiff’s notice on the front door. You can’t collect $10M, or $10K, or $10 from an empty room. And no doubt this collection “agency” was incorporated, thereby abstaining the principals from personal liability. Sucks to be her, but at least (until they reincorporate under a different name) she closed them down.

    • Thomas Palmer says:

      Maybe she and a friend can trick them into storing something valuable in that room temporarily and then go in the with Sheriff? I’m thinking about a laptop or smartphone. I’m sure either of those items would have a lot of great stuff on it.

      • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

        I’m sure right now that room is already empty. If the collection agency had any case to defend themselves, they would have showed up in court. They probably have cleared that rented room soon after the plaintiff in this case filed suit. Then stopped paying rent, and any other bills that may have incurred under “Greedy Bastard Asset Recovery, Inc.” Note the Inc. I`m also guessing the principal owners incorporated under fake names/addresses to keep them from being hunted down.

    • shepd says:

      Directors of a corporation can be held liable in the case of illegal behaviour. I’m thinking this is illegal behaviour.

      • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

        Good luck proving that beyond reasonable doubt. Even so, sure, you may get the principals to go to jail or pay a fine, but that still doesn’t mean you’re collecting a cent from the judgment.

        • Ryno23 says:

          We’d be talking about a civil suit here. There’s no jail time involved, and “beyond a reasonable doubt” isn’t the burden of proof needed to win; it would be a “preponderance of the evidence”…

      • ARP says:

        Technically yes, practically no. You’re going to have a tough time proving that. It’s even worse for large companies, since they can essentially engage in a criminal enterprise and then chalk it up to “poor training,” “a few bad apples,” etc. Hell, Scalia implied in the Wal-Mart case that Wal-Mart as a company can’t be guilty of wage discrimination because (gasp), they have a policy against it.

        That’s why there’s so much frustration on these boards about corporations being (super)persons. They get almost all of the benefits of person-hood, but very little of the negative.

  11. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    Further from the article, for those who may think she’ll get anything from this judgment:

    “When “Nightline” went to RFA’s Orange County, Calif., office to ask about the case, it was abandoned. RFA is actually a fictitious business name for a company called Global AG, LLC. Records show it is just one of several collection companies run by the same people that often change names and move. “Nightline” also visited other offices registered to people named in Mey’s suit, but employees refused to talk and asked us to leave.”

    Sorry, honey.

    • SmokeyBacon says:

      Now, it says that they visited other offices registerd to people named in the suit – would she be able to use the sherrif to collect assets from those locations (because they are registered to the people named in the suit) or is it only that one company that is now gone she could do that with?

      • MrEvil says:

        If the named individuals are listed as co-defendants in the lawsuit, and they didn’t show up to court either, then their assets are up for grabs as well.

  12. ShadowJack says:

    We need to get the Goth Guy that won against Bank of America to get in contact with this lady so she can collect on her just rewards.

  13. shthar says:

    I’m not seeing anything that sez this company is out of business. Just that they abandoned one name they operated under.

    Shoulda got Steven Segal to SERVE THEM!

  14. MedicallyNeedy says:

    I love this! I like the Sheriff’s dept seizing the business idea. Conservative states are pushing for and sometimes enacting debtor-prison laws.

  15. scoutermac says:

    When a debt collector calls remind them of the Fair Debt Collection Act. It states that they are allowed to contact you once to notify you of the debt and they are not allowed to contact you again. It has worked for friends of mine.

    • Hub Cap says:

      April 13, 2012

      FINANCIAL RECOVERIES
      200 E Park Dr Ste 100
      Mount Laurel NJ 08054

      This will serve as your legal notice pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 805, to Cease and Desist all further communication with me in regard to any alleged debt. You are hereby instructed to cease collection efforts immediately or face legal sanctions under applicable Federal and State law.

      I will file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorneys General of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey if you do not comply with this letter.

      I will digitally record any future telephone conversations or messages from you.

      I will keep a detailed log of any future contact you make with me.

      Sincerely,

      Worst Enemy

      This is an attempt to make a debt collector obey the law.
      Any information obtained, will be used for that purpose.

      • FDCPA expert says:

        Except that when you send a Cease & Desist you leave the debt collector no way of communicating with you except to sue you. Always include the phrase “contact through US Mail only”. Otherwise you open yourself up to potentially more expense in the form of lawyer fees and court costs on top of what you owe the collector.
        But I like your debtor’s reworded mini miranda warning. Very funny!

  16. Extended-Warranty says:

    While I don’t condone the actions of the collections agent in the slightest, this was still an absurd settlement.

    This kid of story just sets a precedent that if a collections agency calls you more than once, people are going to try and collect. If you don’t think that will happen, you’re oblivious. Never mind the personal responsibility to pay your debt in the first place, which is the core issue at hand.

    • Blitzgal says:

      This debt wasn’t hers to begin with. Also, there are statutes of limitations on debt. You may not agree with that, but it’s the law. These collections agencies ignore those statute of limitations and try to harass and intimidate people into paying 100% of a debt that the agency has purchased for pennies on the dollar. They are extortionists and criminals. The fact that a person hasn’t paid a debt does not make it okay for these goons to break the law.

  17. Blueskylaw says:

    “My clients say it is not their policy to engage in conduct that violates the law”

    Notice they didn’t say they’re innocent.

    It’s also my policy not to engage in conduct that violates law, yet sometimes when i’m in a hurry I speed and don’t come to complete stops at stop signs.

  18. dwtomek says:

    Too bad this judgement couldn’t have been placed on the owners of the business. That way they couldn’t simply “dissolve” their company and “launch” a new, identical company with a different name.

  19. dvdcowboy says:

    I applaud her. I decided to take up the same cause. I just filed yesterday on a telemarketer that I caught on some tcpa violations. When that is concluded, I have my sights set on a couple of debt collectors as well.

  20. caddisfly says:

    This article needs a legal editor. Judgment has only one “e”. A default judgment is issued if the defendant fails to file an answer to a complaint, not because they didn’t show up at trial. The part that concerns me is how a default judgment could be entered for $10MM when there is no actual damage figure and the ostensibly punitive nature of the damages requires a jury? Any lawyers care to guess?

  21. jimbo831 says:

    To everyone who is saying to seize their property: I read this story elsewhere yesterday. The news outlet that was covering it showed up at their place of business to interview them but it was a fake address and they were not located there. These kind of companies operate out of people’s basements and other undisclosed addresses. It will be hard to find them and their property to seize.

  22. Conformist138 says:

    The other day a friend of mine was called by a collection agency claiming she owed a debt from the local waste management company. She argued that she didn’t owe them $200, but the agent kept forcefully insisting it would be in everyone’s best interest if she just paid it without making a fuss. She kept arguing and finally got them to tell her details of the debt and found it was owed by a man (my friend is a woman) in a state where she has never lived, they just shared the same last name. The agent asked, “Oh… and you don’t know ‘Bob’?” Oh yeah, genius, cuz everyone in the country with the same last name knows each other and are more than happy to pay each other’s bills.

    We wondered how many people had been duped by that agency into paying bills they didn’t owe just to make them go away.

  23. Harry Greek says:

    I like how abusive businesses get a taste of their own medicine.