A now-defunct California collection agency was sentenced on Monday to pay a $350,000 fine and forfeit nearly $950,000 after engaging in a scheme to pay bribes to an official in Arizona in exchange for confidential information.
Michael Flowers, an employee of the agency — Professional Collection Consultants — will be sentenced later this month for his role in bribing the official.
The bribes were paid to an employee for the Arizona Department of Economic Security in order to gain access to wage and earnings information for specific individuals. Flowers would provide specific names and Social Security numbers to the state employee and the employee would provide back the individuals’ financial information, if it had any. The agency would use that information to determine the collectability of a debt or whether it was worth filing a lawsuit against an individual to collect on an unpaid debt.
During the eight months of 2013 in which the scam was operating, the agency used the confidential information to collect on $946,770 in unpaid debts.
Flowers pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California:
The PCC employee who was charged in this case – Michael S. Flowers, 56, of Mid-City Los Angeles – provided the Arizona official with the names and social security numbers of thousands of people who owed money on accounts being serviced by PCC, and the official sent confidential information found on each individual or advise that no wages existed for a specific Social Security number. PCC used the confidential information to analyze the collectability of each debtor’s debt and to determine whether it made financial sense for PCC to sue a debtor in an effort to obtain a judgment that would allow PCC to garnish wages.