Dirty debt collectors frightened victims with fake "sheriffs," "courtroom," "judges"

The Pennsylvania Attorney General has brought suit against the Unicredit Debt Resolution Center in Erie, PA. According to the suit, Unicredit dressed its employees in fake sheriff's deputies uniforms to lure debtors out of their homes with unenforceable orders, and took them to a fake courtroom where another employee pretending to be a judge told them they could go to jail if they didn't pay up.
"Can I look at your fake courtroom?" Parsons asked.

"First of all, that's an allegation that supposedly someone said, so talk to the attorneys," Covatto said. "You guys have a nice day. That's all I got to say."

The Attorney General's Office told Team 4 that Unicredit lured debtors to the building by sending employees who appeared to be sheriff's deputies to their homes, implying that they would be taken into custody if they failed to appear at the phony court hearings.

"It really galls me that someone would stoop that low," Erie County Sheriff Robert Merski said. "This certainly seems to be a scam, and it upsets me that they are trying to play on the integrity of this office, the office of sheriff. We've been here since the beginning of the United States."

The lawsuit accuses Unicredit of intimidating debtors into revealing their bank account numbers, even turning over the titles to their cars once they got them inside the building.

Team 4: Debt Collectors Accused Of Fake Courtroom, Judge

Erie debt collection company sued; accused of using bogus "hearings" and fake "courtroom" to collect from consumers (PA Attorney General)

(Thanks, Anthony I!)


  1. [insert debt collector apologist, “if you’d just pay off your debt, they wouldn’t have to break the law in order to get what’s rightfully theirs!” remark here]

  2. Generally not known for their sense of humor to begin with, if there’s one particular thing governments don’t find funny it’s private enterprises that arrogate to themselves the powers upon which the government presumes it should hold a monopoly.

    So it warms the cockles of my heart to think that these people can expect a very chilly reception in the very real courtroom I expect they’ll be visiting soon.

    1. Generally not known for their sense of humor to begin with, if there’s one particular thing governments don’t find funny it’s private enterprises that arrogate to themselves the powers upon which the government presumes it should hold a monopoly.

      Yeah. And while by BB standards I’m a total fascist/statist/pig/pig apologist/frickin’ piglover/piggy pig pig/etc., I think we can all agree that this is something we WANT cops and prosecutors to get foaming mad about.

      As horrendous as it is to have collectors pursuing you for what they know is fake debt, i.e. the default collection-agency horror story, this is a whole other dimension of shitty.

  3. If the allegations are true, they not only committed fraud (and have to give the money back), but they’re also impersonating officers and probably a range of other crimes that should land them in jail.

  4. I wonder how this company rates as far as zombie debt cases. This sort of tactic seems like it would be prime for collecting a debt and pocketing the funds without clearing the debt, likely giving bogus paperwork, and reselling the debt.

    One can only hope that the fake courtroom was across a state border and some reasonable kidnapping / conspiracy charges can be made.

  5. Yeah. There are good reasons why “impersonating an officer of the law” is a crime in most countries. This is one of them. In fact, this is the archetypal example.

  6. Why are they taking suit against this company and not raiding them and arresting them all?

    Is not impersonating a law enforcement persona and impersonating a court of law not a Federal offence in America?

    They send more people to bust someone growing a few plants out the back but here there taking them to court ooooo


    1. Agree with anon. Everyone participating in the charade should bear some responsibility for their actions. “Just following orders” should not be an excuse for criminal activity.

  7. Person can’t pay debts and they get harassed by corporations.
    Big corporation cant pay debts and feds bail them out.
    Federal government cant pay debts so it inflates the currency stealing value from the individuals saved money and hiking taxes to the sky.

    Revolution anyone?.

  8. This is exactly the sort of problem that wouldn’t arise in a truly free-market economy. Without the state monopolizing power, debt collectors would be freely able to collect their property from delinquent debtors.

    Probably, they would accomplish this by sending well-armed private security officers to extract appendages from, kidnap the family members of, or entirely disappear the most egregious offenders. This is a key example why governments should be abolished so that our rights to personal property can be better protected by the marketplace…

    … or is it too early for libertarian parody?

    1. This is exactly the sort of problem that wouldn’t arise in a truly free-market economy … or is it too early for libertarian parody?

      On the contrary: it’s probably too late for a libertarian parody.

      “First they came for the libertarian parodies, but I did not laugh, as I saw that it was no parody ….”

  9. I’ve been threatened with court over impossibly low sums (hint: less than 10 grand and they’d lose money this way) but this is a bit more extreme. And jailable.

    1. Threathned with court for less than 10 grand?

      I’ve been called to court for 200 euros. For a less-than-legal “permanence” contract with a mobile phone company that had a penalty if I left the company in less than 18 months. The company *left me* and then, sued me…

  10. A truly free society will last exactly one second before its taken over by a greedy little dictator and his crew. Don’t forget that this recession was caused by Banks taking advantage of a reduction in regulation.

    Our current economies are based on continued growth, when will we realise that its just not sustainable?

    Idealists, please somebody shoot them.

  11. That sounds like socialism letting the government get involved with business like that. The “free hand” should correct such behaviors in some magical way.

    1. yes, bart. no one here is an idiot — other than, perhaps, the one making the idiotic comment about stating the obvious.

      perhaps we should just acknowledge all wrongdoings once and then just ignore them. that will help educate the world. that will help create resistance, that will help empower people to speak out against injustice.

      breaking news, global climate change is destroying the planet. full story at 11.

      you know what? that story never airs at 11. it should, but it doesn’t. and yet we’d be daft to stop trying to keep climate change as major talking point.

      hey, wouldn’t it be nice if debt collectors being scumbags WAS the lead story on the news? something might actually get done about it.

  12. effing debt collection agencies. the lowest of the bloody low. i hold nothing but disgust for them.

    my student loans went into default in the late 90’s. it wasn’t my fault, really. the government, for unfathomable reasons, broke my loans into 4 different files — splitting both my provincial and federal loans into 2 separate loans each — and then demanded payment on all 4 accounts while i was working a minimum wage job. i was unable to meet minimum payments. when i couldn’t, my debt was sold to several different collection agencies.

    these companies seemed to be in competition as to which one could perform the most illegal and scummy act. they called my parents — a most illegal act — and told them i’d go to jail if they didn’t pay money on my behalf immediately. my parents dropped 10K on the spot — forcing them to cancel a trip to europe that they had saved for years for. they called my employers — very much an illegal act — and suggested that they set up a direct deposit garnishing of wages without my consent. my boss told them to f*** off. they would call and threaten me with lawsuits and court appearances. one guy just kept on uttering vague threats: “you know what they do to people like you, right?”

    finally, i started audio taping the phone calls i received. after one call, in which an agency employee threatened me in numerous ways, i decided to send an email to his supervisor, the company’s board of directors, the ontario student loan ombudsperson, my member of parliament, the minister of education, and several large media outlets. the email contained a transcript of the telephone call as well as a list of illegal acts performed earlier by the same company — total credit recovery, in case you want to have the scumbags named.

    i didn’t hear from them again for years. they turned tail. they knew that if it ever went to court, i would walk away from the confrontation debt-free and they would be on the hook for my loan.

    these companies perform illegal acts too many to count. they are well practiced in making sure that their bullying is both effective and kept private. they know that 99.9% of the time their fear tactics will keep their victims from speaking out. the only way to fight them is to bully them right back.

    and what makes it worse is that the governments that sell personal debt to these creeps know exactly how collection agencies operate. this makes the governments just as guilty.

    bloody rotten system.

    1. @skeptacally: That sounds eerily familiar. I’m pretty sure it was Total Credit Recovery that called my wife and told her that when we’d paid off her student loans six years previously, we’d only paid off the guaranteed portion, and still owed on the unguaranteed portion.

      They couldn’t produce the paperwork for the loan, with my wife’s signature, stating that there were two parts of the loan. They couldn’t explain why it took them six more years to track her down. They especially couldn’t explain why they were attempting to collect on a “debt” that was statutorily barred in Ontario (six years was the limit at the time), or why they were contacting us (we live in the US) in violation of several provisions of the US Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

      We let the lawyer sort them out.

  13. I had a debt collector call me and say a “complaint” had been filed against me and that I should have my lawyer call them. I called the number and the options were to a)settle out of court or b)if you were a lawyer, you could leave a mssg. It was entirely setup to make it appear is if you were being sued, and they didn’t want to talk to the actual person targeted unless you were willing to pay up. I chose neither option. Having been sued before (unsuccessfully) I knew they don’t just leave you with a phone call / voice message, and have to serve you in writing, detailing the content of the suit. Here in Texas, a constable comes to hand-deliver notice, which you have to sign for.
    There would seem to be no limit to how low these companies will stoop, and since most people seem to be fooled by them, they have no incentive to stop.

  14. If your debt is “sold” to a collection agency DON’T PAY THEM. You have an obligation to pay the person you originally had an agreement with. Kepp your word and pay that original person instead. Leave the scumbags hanging on to debt you have already paid.

  15. Impersonating an officer in order to detain someone is technically kidnapping. Somebody at that debt collection office better being seeing some real consequences for this. Oh, but they were just victimizing poor people. That’s less of a crime in this country for some reason.

  16. I wish people would stop implementing my jokes into their business practices.

    Maybe I should stop making jokes.

  17. Impersonating a law enforcement officer, impersonating a judge, staging a fake court, committing false arrest…?

    I swear, if someone doesn’t go to jail for this then I fucking give up. If I did *any* of these things I’d likely go to jail for 20 years.

  18. The responses in the comments are exactly why I wrote the “Stick it to Sue Happy Debt Collectors” book (available in print and eBook). http://www.beatdebtcollectors.com

    My (next) upcoming book is a 300+ page book on how to sue debt collectors for breaking the law. It’s time consumer understood their rights and to sue companies and individuals that step across the line and violate these rights. The book is a step by step guide for consumers (pro se) to sue debt collectors.

  19. Pennsylvania already has a privatized municipal tax collection company serving many communities in the state (I believe it’s called “Berkheimer” or similar), so I can see this scam being a bit more believable here than elsewhere. Disgusting.

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