debt collectorFollowing a series of debt-collection violations that victimized consumers, New York's attorney general has issued a stern warning to debt collectors.

In the wake of a debt collection scam that targeted military personnel, one of a rash of recent violations, state officials have issued a warning to collectors: they must play by the rules, or pay a steep price of their own.New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued the warning to debt collectors as he announced stiff penalties for a trio of in-state operators who crossed legal lines.

The violations ranged from fraud to threats, intimidation, and misrepresentation.

"These individuals preyed on vulnerable consumers and military personnel who were already struggling financially," said Schneiderman.

The offenders include Stephanie Lowinger, who pleaded guilty to charges that her Buffalo-area collectors sought to defraud members of the military.

According to investigators, Lowinger's company -- known as Neiman, Rona & Associates, among other names -- created "special accounts" around the alleged debt of targeted active-duty personnel. Lowinger's company threatened these alleged debtors with arrest by military police and dishonorable discharge from the armed service.

Additionally, Schneiderman's office said, debt amounts were often inflated, harassing phone calls went unchecked and the company additionally saddled some debtors' credit card accounts with unauthorized charges.

Lowinger has been permanently banned from debt-collection activities in New York State.

The state has levied a $60,000 fine against Frank Santiago -- owner of Eastern Asset Management and Northern Asset Management -- after investigators learned that his collectors sought to trick debtors into thinking an attorney was going to sue them, and threatened consumers with police action and seizure of their homes. Santiago has been ordered to reform his business practices.

Schneiderman's investigation also determined that attorney John Nicolia -- who was paid a retainer and whose name was used by Santiago's companies in the threats -- was aware of his role in the scheme. Nicolia has been banned from debt collection and fined $20,000.

Richard Cerrone, owner of the Southern Tier Agency, Check and Credit Reporting, Inc., Credit and Check Filing, Inc., and Peggy Cerrone - who owns the Cornerstone Resolution Group -- must pay $85,000 in fines to the state for debt-collection violations.

The companies have accrued more than 30 consumer-filed lawsuits and more than 200 complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau and Schneiderman's office.

"Today's settlements send a strong message that this office will not tolerate collectors intimidating consumers, or attorneys improperly lending their names to debt collectors," Schneiderman said.

While debt collection laws can vary from state to state, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ensures some rights, nationwide.

Collectors cannot contact debtors at work (if they have been told not to by the debtor), nor can they place calls at especially early or late hours (unless debtors agree to take them).

While collectors can contact people other than the debtor to obtain your contact information, they are not allowed to call them more than once, and they cannot discuss your debt with people other than you, your spouse and your attorney.

Unless a collector can provide written verification of the debt, they must stop contacting you once you tell them in writing that you don't owe any or all of the money in question.

In no cases is a collector allowed to threaten violence, harm, public exposure or to falsely claim that they are attorneys or government agents. They cannot threaten to arrest debtors, or garnish wages or seize homes. They cannot charge interest on top of the owed amount.

If you think a collector is violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or any law, contact your state attorney general, and use the information and complaint resources at the Federal Trade Commission's website:

Become a fan of Consumer Ally on Facebook.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How much house can I afford

Home buying 101, evaluating one of your most important financial decisions.

View Course »

Intro to different retirement accounts

What does it mean to have a 401(k)? IRA?

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

if you have credit cards and you cant seem to make ends meet each month, maybe a debt management plan could help you! Contact ClearPoint today for a free financial overview of your whole financial picture. Go to today!

May 23 2012 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Do yourself a "HUGE FAVOR" and carefully read this:

The 21st Century Act: Final Amendments to Regulation CC Section:
"Prohibits" reimbursement of Credit, Loan, and Finance Balances to a "Bank Entity" leaving only "Nonbank Consumers" able to receive reimbursement, as specified on Pages 85 and 86.

The 21st Century Act states on pg. 85 and 86 that "Only Nonbank Consumers can suffer losses and File for
Re-credit or Re-claim on any Accounts under the Federal Reserve System" also “Any Second or Third Party Presenters utilizing a Banks Documentation, Contracts and/or Agreements to seek Claims shall be considered to be that Bank under the Rules and Regulations”, the Expanded Definitions also includes Credit Cards and Home Equity Lines of Credit.
Also on Pages 100 and 101 "In any Financial Claims the Indemifying Bank (Parent Bank) must be Identified".

(Left-Click to Search Link)
21st Century Act: Final Amendments to Regulation CC

This Federal Law signed January 1, 2006 makes it "Fraudulent" and therefore "Illegal" for the 3 Major Personal Credit Reporting Agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TrasUnion to allow the Banks and the Banks "Third Party Presenters" to place any claim of "Negative" or "Potentially Negative" Accounts on your Personal Credit Based upon the fact that they have no "Legal Grounds or Claim" to the Money.

This is an "Unfair Practice" that diminishes our Financial ability to support ourselves and adversely affects our ability to gain work in many areas which breaks "Antitrust Laws".

These Rules also back claims of: "Aiding and Abetting" Racketeering and Extortion (of Finance Accounts and Personal Credit Reports), Pandering (of Credit and Loan Accounts, and Conspiracy to wit), Theft, Fraud, Federal Mail Fraud, and Telephone Harassment. Also "Threatening of the U.S. Financial Infrastructure", which is a "Capital Crime".

In order to engage the Federal Trade Commission to act against this injustice we must File many Claims, as these Reports must be Filed by a large number of people in order for the Federal Trade Commission to pursue
"Legal Action".

(Left -Click to engage Email Address)

This is way easier than "Occupying Wall Street"!

March 11 2012 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply