Unicredit America Inc., an Erie, Pa.-based collection agency, collected money from unsuspecting consumers by pretending to hold hearings in a room decorated to look like a courtroom, according to a lawsuit filed Friday against the company in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania attorney general's Bureau of Consumer Protection is seeking restitution for consumers in the civil lawsuit filed in Erie County (Pa.) Court. Unicredit America is also known as Unicredit Debt Resolution Center.
The lawsuit alleges the company used people posing as sheriff's deputies to summon people to an office in Erie that employees called "the courtroom," The company then staged court proceedings to obtain money from them.
"This is an unconscionable attempt to use fake court proceedings to deceive, mislead or frighten consumers into making payments or surrendering valuables to Unicredit without following lawful procedures for debt collection," Attorney General Tom Corbett said in a statement.
The company didn't immediately return a call for comment this morning.
According to the state, the company set up a room at their Erie office that appeared to be a courtroom, complete with a raised area where a judge would sit, attorneys tables and legal books on bookshelves. A person dressed in black would sometimes sit in the position of the judge, the state said, according to an Associated Press report.
The state has asked the court to immediately freeze the company's assets and stop holding hearings, among other things. A hearing on the request is scheduled for Dec. 13.