ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shut down a predatory debt collection operation.

The operation used deceptive and abusive tactics to illegally collect millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of consumers.

The debt collection operation, comprised of several companies, falsely threatened consumers with harsh consequences if they did not pay, inflated the true amount of debts owed, and contacted consumers’ friends, family members, and employers to harass consumers. As a result of the actions taken by Attorney General James and CFPB, this debt collection operation, its owners, and managers are required to pay $4 million and are permanently banned from the debt collection industry.

Companies involved:

  • JPL Recovery Solutions, LLC
  • Regency One Capital LLC
  • ROC Asset Solutions LLC, which does business as API Recovery Solutions
  • Check Security Associates LLC, which does business as Warner Location Services and Orchard Payment Processing Systems
  • Keystone Recovery Group

These companies were owned by Christopher Di Re, Scott Croce, and Susan Croce, and were managed by Brian Koziel and Marc Gracie. CFPBs action with the New York Attorney General bans the leaders of this predatory debt collection operation from the industry to halt further misconduct, claims CFPB Director Rohit Chopra.

The complaint alleged that the owners, managers, and companies used the following illegal tactics to collect debt: 

  • Falsely claimed arrest and imprisonment: On occasion, collectors working for these companies falsely threatened consumers with arrest and imprisonment if they did not make payments.
  • Lied about legal action: The companies falsely threatened consumers with legal action, including wage garnishment and seizing property.
  • Inflated the debts and misrepresented amounts owed: The defendants deceptively inflated the amount owed to convince people that paying the amount they actually owe represents a substantial discount. To coerce consumers even further, collectors said it was an offer that would only be available for a short period of time. 
  • Created “smear campaigns”: The collectors contacted consumers’ immediate family members, grandparents, distant family members, in-laws, ex-spouses, employers, work colleagues, landlords, Facebook friends, and other known associates, to pressure people to pay. The collectors did this even after consumers told the collectors to stop contact. Victims described these tactics as “emotional terrorism.”
  • Harassed people with repeated phone calls: The collectors repeatedly called people multiple times every day over periods lasting a month or longer. Collectors were, in fact, instructed to let the consumer hang up on each call so they can maintain a pretense in their call logs that they were disconnected, and then call back as soon as the next day. The collectors also used insulting and belittling language and engaged in intimidating behavior when calling. 
  • Failed to provide legally mandated disclosures: The collectors did not provide to consumers the statutorily-required notices, which detail their rights. When people asked for them, some collectors refused to provide them.

As a result of the settlement, this operation is required to pay $2 million to New York and $2 million to CFPB. If they fail to pay the $4 million judgment promptly, they will be required to pay another $1 million.