Ohio regulators announced the filing of a lawsuit Friday against Buffalo, N.Y. collection agency Rotech Holdings Ltd. for allegedly harassing and misleading Ohio residents.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office alleges defendants RoTech, doing business as RH Group, and two brothers who run the collection agency - Sean M. Lista and Glenn R. Lista - violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumers Sales Practices Act.
Consumers complained that the agency used profane or abusive language on the phone, threatened them with legal actions or jail time, harassed co-workers and family members and called them repeatedly after they told the agency’s employees that they didn’t owe the alleged debt.
"We found a pattern of abusive debt collection practices and a collector who doesn’t seem to want to change," DeWine said. "We want to protect Ohioans from being ripped off and put an end to violations of state or federal consumer protection laws."
DeWine’s office is seeking an injunction to stop violations, damages for affected consumers and civil penalties. More than 30 people complained about the company to state or federal agencies, but DeWine believes additional consumers likely have been affected.The lawsuit is part of an enforcement sweep called "Operation Collection Protection," organized by the Federal Trade Commission and including more than 70 agencies and 115 enforcement actions filed nationwide in 2015 involving alleged illegal debt collection practices. As part of the effort, the coalition of federal, state, and local enforcement agencies are sharing complaints, investigative information, and best practices to stop illegal debt collection practices, resulting in what regulators are calling an unprecedented collection of enforcement actions.
DeWine's office earlier this year filed two lawsuits alleging illegal collection practices including one against Nationwide Recovery Group and another against Universal Debt & Payment Solutions LLC. Both cases are pending.
Nationwide Recovery Group and owner, Michael P. McCarthy, allegedly violated the FDCPA and Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act by impersonating government and law enforcement agencies, including Ohio clerk of courts’ offices in Greene, Montgomery and Cuyahoga counties, along with county sheriff deputies and a court investigator, the February lawsuit alleges.
In the Universal Debt case, filed in May, employees allegedly would swear at and threaten people with criminal prosecution if they failed to pay their debts or call the debt collector back within 24 hours. In most cases, consumers did not owe the debts referenced, the lawsuit states.