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Judge Freezes Collection Agency’s Assets

May 16, 2003

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A federal judge Thursday froze the assets of a collection agency that regulators say illegally threatened its targets with arrest, criminal prosecution and civil action.

Since 1995, Check Investors Inc. of Secaucus used intimidation to collect at least $10.2 million from about 42,100 people _ many of whom did not even owe any money, the Federal Trade Commission charged.

``The abusive, harassing, illegal conduct is going to stop,″ said Gregory A. Ashe, a senior lawyer in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The FTC said in court papers that many consumers reported the company’s collectors ``verbally assaulted them, lacing their demands for immediate payment with invective, insults, profanity, and threats.″ One person reported getting 17 calls within 10 minutes.

Collection letters routinely lied that nonpayment would result in garnishment of property or wages, the agency said.

The company’s president, Barry S. Sussman, served 3 1/2 years in federal prison in the late 1980s for mail fraud, bank fraud and impersonating a federal official.

Neither Sussman nor his lawyer, Stephen R. LaCheen, immediately returned messages seeking comment Thursday.

In addition to freezing assets, Chief U.S. District Judge John W. Bissell issued a restraining order barring the defendants from violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and barring them from suing any consumer.

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