The Federal Trade Commission has concluded a case against collection agency Academy Collection Service Inc. (ACS) and alleged Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) violations by imposing civil penalties totaling $675,000 against Albert S. Bastian and Keith L. Hurt III.

The two men oversaw the agency's Las Vegas collection center at the time of the original complaint.

The settlement concludes a case that a year ago drew the largest civil penalty ever imposed on a collection agency. In 2008, ACS and its owner, Keith Dickstein, paid $2.25 million to settle FTC charges that the Philadelphia-based agency's collectors violated the Federal Trade Commission Act and the FDCPA, and that Dickstein failed to stop the violations, (Collections & Credit Risk, Nov. 25, 2008).

According to the FTC’s complaint, filed by the Department of Justice, the individuals - including Bastian and Hurt - participated in, or controlled, the actions of collectors whose unlawful practices included false or deceptive threats of garnishment, arrest and legal action; improper calls to consumers; frequent, harassing, threatening, and abusive calls; and unfair and unauthorized withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts. It further alleged that they failed to adequately investigate consumer complaints or discipline collectors, and collectors who were terminated for violating the FDCPA often were rehired within a few months.

Dickstein did not immediately return calls today seeking comment about the new settlement. Bastian and Hurt also could not be reached and it was not immediately clear if they are still employed at ACS.

The judgments against them were suspended upon payment of $7,500 each, based on their ability to pay. The full judgments - $375,000 for Bastian, $300,000 for Hurt - will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

“The FTC wants to remind debt collectors of their responsibilities and obligations under the law. Abusive collection actions are illegal, and if debt collectors use abusive tactics they could face legal action,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “At the same time, we want consumers to understand their rights if their debts go into collection. Money matters, and the more people know about managing their debt and dealing with debt collectors, the better off they will be.”

To comment on this story, contact Darren Waggoner at 815.463.9008 or send e-mail to:

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