A court-appointed trustee will operate student loan collection agency DECA Financial Services after the Fishers, Ind.-based company failed Tuesday to get a time extension to devise a refinancing plan to pay off its creditors.

DECA, facing involuntary bankruptcy from creditors, filed for the four-day extension on Monday, which was the deadline for the agency to offer its refinancing plan to a bankruptcy judge and avoid having a trustee named to oversee the company's financial restructuring.

Just four years old, DECA previously was celebrated in Inc. magazine as one of the nation's fastest-growing companies. But over the past two years, problems began to mount. DECA CEO Todd Wolfe said the company was mismanaged by the people he left in charge while he was undergoing stomach cancer treatment, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Wolfe returned to work full time in December but DECA’s financial problems had hit a critical point by then when its main lender, BMO Harris Bank, declared DECA in default on a loan and froze its accounts. BMO Harris lifted the freeze Dec. 24 but reimposed it on Dec. 30, demanding records and another audit of DECA’s books, according to court filings.

DECA attorney David Tipton, in the extension request Mnoday, said the company needed more time to come up with a plan to pay off more than $10 million in loans owed to BMO Harris, and more than $500,000 owed to creditors in the involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. DECA reportedly had arranged a creditor buy-in for a $17.5 million refinancing proposal on March 5, but said Monday that a buyer it had lined up for its Fishers headquarters backed out. Fishers is a northern Indianapolis suburb.

Among other problems the company has been facing:  

• A fraud allegation against Wolfe, who is an 80 percent owner of DECA. In court testimony last month, a former executive accused Wolfe of diverting $2.1 million in company money last year into his personal account with no explanation.

• Misstated earnings. Just days before BMO Harris began a special audit of DECA’s books, DECA restated its profit-and-loss statement for 11 months of 2013 to change a profit of $9 million into a loss of $5.8 million, according to a judge’s findings.

• Reported misuse of client money. DECA general counsel Dustin Stohler admitted to a judge last month that DECA used $557,000 in returned money from its frozen bank accounts to meet its own payroll, rather than returning most of the money — which came largely from collections — to customers.

• A partner of the accounting firm Sikich LLC, which audited DECA’s books, testified that DECA’s 2011 and 2012 financial statements given to BMO Harris bore Sikich’s name but weren’t actually prepared by the Naperville, Ill., firm.

DECA sued BMO Harris in Hamilton County (Ind.) in January, after the bank declared DECA in default and froze its accounts, including the personal account of Wolfe. DECA termed the bank’s conduct “malicious,” saying the freeze disrupted company operations and caused it to bounce checks and lose customers.

The Indiana attorney general’s office is investigating DECA over complaints its collection tactics violated state fair debt collection practices.

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