Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Police as debt collectors?

Not applicable

Police as debt collectors?

OK, first, this is very, very scary. But, second, I would very much personally like to have been in Angela Procter's shoes--figuratively speaking--because then I'd get to find out what a federal judge thinks of someone acting as a third party debt collector threatening one with arrest and criminal prosecution. Cop or not, they ain't above the law, and federal judges tend not to be very impressed by local officials violating the law.

Quite frankly, I'm truly shocked that a police Lt. would be dumb enough to do this. Young cop, and had the business owner been a good looking woman, then yeah OK I could see such a dumb thing happening.

It did happen in the Land of Capone so I guess I should not be surprised, but it strikes me as abuse of power under color of authority.

Silly, stupid me. I didn't know that union busting and other such duties were still within the purview of the police.
The State AG and the USDOJ needs to climb up the Midlothian PD's backside.

July 19, 2007

A Blue Island woman said Midlothian police harassed her last week over a debt she incurred with a local mechanic, threatening her with criminal charges if she didn't pay.

Midlothian police aren't denying they called the woman. The department's police chief said calling and notifying her she could be charged was appropriate and a service to local businesses.

In November, Angela Procter was having some problems with her van and took it into Merlin's Muffler and Brake, 3704 W. 147th St., to be fixed.

Her bill ran about $460. After the repairs were made, Procter paid about $200 and the van was released to her with the agreement she would pay the remaining balance in installments.

In December, she paid about $150 more, bringing the total of what she owed to about $108.

But soon after she made the second payment, she fell on hard times financially.

At the time, Procter was caring for her infant child and was pregnant again. She was not working at the time and was recovering from a broken foot.

Her fiancee, who works construction, was in the middle of a seasonal work slump and was out of a job for about a month.

The couple had been evicted from their apartment and was forced to stay with relatives in the interim.

Procter said that's when she had to make some tough choices.

"We were just trying to find a place to live. If it comes down to paying a mechanic $100 or keep a roof over mine and my kids' heads, I'm going to do what I need to do to survive," she said. "I admit that I owed the money and I'm grateful for them (at Merlin's) letting me pay later."

Last Monday though, Procter received a call from Lt. Harold Kaufman from the Midlothian police.

Procter said Kaufman told her if she didn't pay, she could be subject to criminal charges.

"He didn't say what I could be charged with if I didn't pay. But I was so scared at the time, I didn't think to ask," she said.

Procter said Kaufman instructed her to get a cashier's check and deliver it to him at the police department and he would take it to Merlin's.

But after she got off the phone, Procter said she started to think something wasn't right.

So she called the Cook County State's Attorney's office to get their input. She said she was told she should go and make payment directly to Merlin's.

Procter has since paid her bill in full, but still resents the treatment from police and wonders if others have received similar calls.

"When the police come to you and threaten you, what do you do? What's to prevent police from being debt collectors and arresting everyone who is late with some kind of payment," she said. "Maybe this will convince other people this has happened to come forward or maybe it will stop the police from doing this kind of thing."

When asked about the matter last week, Kaufman said Procter could have been brought up on theft of service charges even though Merlin's released Procter's vehicle to her.

He also said Procter's version of the story was not true, though he declined to give his version of the story because he said he was contacted by an attorney.

"I'm not going to comment any further for a ridiculous newspaper article," he said.

Karla Fiaoni -- a former Cook County state's attorney and former police chief who now is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago -- said she thinks it's improper for police to collect debts for local businesses.

"As a police chief, I would not allow one of my officers to act as a collection agency for a private business. As a prosecutor, I would not bring charges on her (Procter) for $100 based on these facts. It clearly sounds like a civil matter.

"As a defense attorney," Fiaoni continued, "I'd gladly go to court and demand a trial and find out why a police lieutenant is acting as a collection agency for a business. Then I'd challenge them to prove beyond a reasonable doubt she tried to defraud them. It all sounds fishy to me."

Midlothian police Chief Vincent Schavone defended Kaufman's actions, calling them appropriate.

"We help our businesses out in town. It saves the people grief and it saves the businesses grief. Then we recommend them (business owners) to take whatever actions necessary. If they want to come in and sign a complaint, we'll take the complaint. If they want to pursue it as a civil matter, they can," Schavone said.

Schavone said his officers have been known to call people on behalf of businesses in the village to see if they could be convinced to make payments.
Message 1 of 4
Not applicable

Re: Police as debt collectors?

That sucks dunky dXXXX. I hope that lady sues everyone from the officer,chief (just from his statment) also PD and the city. I have never heard of cops taking a complaint for a debt. I have always know that most will not interfere with any dispute (unless someone is beatin the crap outa someone else).
Message 2 of 4
Not applicable

Re: Police as debt collectors?,221of1.article
Midlothian Police Chief Vince Schavone defended Kaufman's actions, saying it was a service police had done for local businesses. Police call the person in question in an effort to get them to pay, then offer the owner the option of pursuing a criminal complaint for theft of services, or taking up the matter in civil court, he said.
If a police department is regularly engaged in this sorta thing, they might well meet the definition of a debt collector under FDCPA.
That's the key. If the police meet the definition of debt collector, then methinks they are in deep s*** if a good consumer lawyer gets hold of this.
Should that happen, y'all are gonna wanna break out the popcorn and watch. It will be worth watching.

(6) The term "debt collector" means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another. Notwithstanding the exclusion provided by clause (F) of the last sentence of this paragraph, the term includes any creditor who, in the process of collecting his own debts, uses any name other than his own which would indicate that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect such debts. For the purpose of section 808(6), such term also includes any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests. The term does not include --

(A) any officer or employee of a creditor while, in the name of the creditor, collecting debts for such creditor;

(B) any person while acting as a debt collector for another person, both of whom are related by common ownership or affiliated by corporate control, if the person acting as a debt collector does so only for persons to whom it is so related or affiliated and if the principal business of such person is not the collection of debts;

(C) any officer or employee of the United States or any State to the extent that collecting or attempting to collect any debt is in the performance of his official duties;

(D) any person while serving or attempting to serve legal process on any other person in connection with the judicial enforcement of any debt;

(E) any nonprofit organization which, at the request of consumers, performs bona fide consumer credit counseling and assists consumers in the liquidation of their debts by receiving payments from such consumers and distributing such amounts to creditors; and

(F) any person collecting or attempting to collect any debt owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another to the extent such activity (i) is incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation or a bona fide escrow arrangement; (ii) concerns a debt which was originated by such person; (iii) concerns a debt which was not in default at the time it was obtained by such person; or (iv) concerns a debt obtained by such person as a secured party in a commercial credit transaction involving the creditor.

Message 3 of 4
Not applicable

Re: Police as debt collectors?

I can only hope this noose continues to tighten around the neck of the Midlothian PD.
Why can't I get morons like this to call and threaten me?
A credit industry expert questioned whether a Midlothian police lieutenant should have acted as a collection agency when he threatened a woman with criminal charges if she didn't pay a bill to a local business.
He said the lieutenant may have violated federal law if he was acting as a third-party debt collector.
The act stipulates several procedures have to be followed, including notifying the debtor in writing and notifying the debtor of his or her right to dispute a debt.
Not following those procedures could constitute a federal violation
"The minute the mechanic willingly released the van to her and agreed to let her make installment payments on the balance, they extended her credit. Therefore she cannot be charged with theft of services," Menges said.
Sources recently contacted by The Star called into question Midlothian's apparent routine practice of calling customers on behalf of local businesses to get them to pay delinquent bills.

A person commits theft when he obtains the temporary use of property, labor or services of another which are available only for hire, by means of threat or deception or knowing that such use is without the consent of the person providing the property, labor or services.
In order to charge this woman, the cops would have to show intend to deceive as no threat has been alledged.
Message 4 of 4
Advertiser Disclosure: The offers that appear on this site are from third party advertisers from whom FICO receives compensation.