The Attorney General of Arizona has launched a lawsuit against a collection operation that allegedly impersonated law enforcement officials and using intimidation tactics to try and collect non-existent debts.
The lawsuit, filed against Mark Anthony Smith and Deborah Ann Butler, who were doing business as CMS Financial Group, John Lee Group & Associates, and TD Financial Solutions Group AZ, was announced as part of Operation Corrupt Collector, a joint state and federal initiative aimed at protecting consumers from abusive collection practices and collectors seeking to collect on non-existent debts.
“Debt collectors cannot pretend to be law enforcement and they cannot threaten to arrest consumers,” said Mark Brnovich, the Attorney General of Arizona, in a statement. “If consumers get phone calls threatening arrests, they should hang up the phone and report it to our office.”
The press release announcing the lawsuit also included recordings of voicemails left by the defendants in attempting to contact individuals and collect. (scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to the recordings)
Using software to spoof their phone numbers to make it appear as though they were calling from a courthouse or law enforcement agency, the collectors would impersonate law enforcement officials or process servers when on the phone with individuals. If the individuals did not pay immediately, they were threatened with court action, wage garnishment, freezing bank accounts, liens on property, and having law enforcement officials sent to the individuals’ homes or places of work to be arrested.
Between January 2016 and May 2020, the collectors allegedly made more than 65,000 collection calls, according to the complaint.