Four Star Resolution in Buffalo, N.Y., one of two collection agencies in Western New York sued last month by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General’s office for allegedly abusive tactics, wants a judge to remove a restraining order preventing it from doing business.

Officials with the collection agency filed court papers Friday. The company’s attorney said the FTC, before the court action, had not notified Four Star officials of any concerns of wrongdoing and the he believes the company has not been treated fairly or equal to other collection agencies that have faced similar allegations.  

Both Four Star and Vantage Point Services in Amherst, N.Y. pursue debts from consumers nationwide and allegedly have been using false threats, such as telling debtors they will be arrested if they don’t pay their bills, and abusive language, according to the FTC. 

The FTC and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office allege that Four Star, six corporate entities and three individuals regularly called consumers using fictitious addresses, bogus company names and spoofed phone numbers. After misrepresenting their names and locations, collectors allegedly falsely identified themselves to consumers, claiming that they were attorneys, process servers, government agents or criminal law enforcement officials.

Four Star’s collectors allegedly falsely claimed that the consumers had committed an illegal or criminal act such as bank or check fraud. They then threatened consumers with consequences ranging from imprisonment to civil lawsuits, unless the consumers made an immediate payment on the debts.

The complaint cites several examples that illustrate the defendants’ alleged abusive and deceptive conduct. During one call to collect on a supposed debt, a Four Star collector used the pseudonym “Detective Jeff Ramsay,” and left a message where he falsely asserted that he was seeking to serve a bench warrant on the consumer for check fraud.

In another case, Four Star’s collectors falsely told a consumer that her husband had committed check and money fraud and that legal action would be taken against the husband if the debt was not paid in two days. One of Four Star’s collectors falsely identified himself to the consumer as "Investigator Kearns" and claimed that he worked for a government agency.

The complaint alleges that when consumers asked for proof of the supposed debt, Four Star’s representatives refused to provide it and instead often told consumers they would only receive proof in court or after the debt was paid. The defendants often allegedly failed to provide written notice of the debt as required by law and failed to make required disclosures to consumers.

Finally, the complaint alleges that Four Star unlawfully disclosed information about supposed debtors to third parties, including friends, family members, and employers, and illegally used abusive and profane language, including routinely calling consumers such names as “idiot,” “dummy,” “piece of scum,” “thief” or “loser.”

The Four Star defendants include: 1) Four Star Resolution LLC; 2) Profile Management Inc.; 3) International Recovery Service LLC; 4) Check Solutions Services Inc.; 5) Check Fraud Service LLC; 6) Merchant Recovery Service Inc.; 7) Fourstar Revenue Management LLC; 8) Travell Thomas, individually and as a principal, manager, and/or officer of several of the corporate defendants; 9) Maurice Sessum, individually and as a principal, manager, and/or officer of several of the corporate defendants; and 10) Charles Blakely III, individually and as principal, manager, and/or officer of Merchant Recovery Service, Inc. The complaint also alleges that the corporate defendants conducted business through approximately two dozen fictitious names.

Vantage Point in some cases allegedly posed as government agencies, including the FBI and district attorneys, and at times pretended to be a law firm or process server.According to the second complaint, against Vantage Point and various corporate and individual defendants, in collection calls to consumers, the defendants often falsely claimed to be a law firm, process server, unrelated debt collection company or entity affiliated with the government.

In some cases, the defendants allegedly posed as government agents, including FBI agents and district attorneys. In others instances, the defendants allegedly falsely told consumers they were working as an intermediary with the state, or that the state had placed the consumers’ account with them to give them a chance to pay the debt before criminal charges were filed.

The defendants falsely claimed that consumers had committed a crime and that an arrest warrant would be issued unless they made a payment. Often, the defendants told consumers that they would spend 90 or 120 days in jail, or that that would need to pay thousands of dollars in bail if they didn’t pay.

The defendants’ conduct was not limited to people that supposedly owed the debt, however. Vantage Point made similar representations to third parties, including supposed debtors’ friends, family members and co-workers. In some cases, the defendants falsely told third parties that the supposed debtors had committed a crime and that a warrant had been issued for their arrest.

The following are named in the complaint against Vantage Point:

  1. Vantage Point Services LLC
  2. Payment Management Solutions Inc.
  3. Bonified Payments Solutions Inc.
  4. Gregory MacKinnon
  5. Megan Vandeviver
  6. Joseph Ciffa

 

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