The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit against a debt collection operation that allegedly threatened consumers throughout the nation with lawsuits, seizure of property, and arrest. The FTC is seeking an end to such illegal practices and a freeze of the defendants’ assets.
“The Federal Trade Commission will not tolerate these kinds of repeated, egregious violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said, adding that abusive debt collectors will face aggressive law enforcement by the agency.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the operation used misleading and threatening letters and telephone calls while collecting debts for beauty schools, truck driving schools, bail bondsmen, fitness centers, and other small businesses. The complaint alleges that the defendants falsely threatened that they were about to file lawsuits against consumers, that consumers’ property would be seized and sold, that their wages would be garnished, and that they would be liable for legal costs. In some cases, they threatened consumers with arrest in some cases, and often used profanity and shouting during telephone calls.
The defendants operated from Florida under a series of different business names and corporate identities since 1995, using mail drops in Texas, Georgia, and Florida, according to the complaint. They are charged with violating Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which bars deceptive, unfair and abusive debt collection practices. The defendants are Rawlins & Rivera Inc. of Florida, Rawlins & Rivera Inc. of Georgia, Ryan & Reed Inc. of Florida, Ryan & Reed Inc. of Georgia, RRI Inc., their officers, Janis Brust, Joe L. Hunt, Sr., Joe L. Hunt, Jr., and Shannon Hunt, and a Florida lawyer, Robert W. Bird, whose letterhead was used for many of their collection letters.
The Commission vote authorizing the filing of the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, was 5-0.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Office of Public Affairs
Seena D. Gressin or J. Reilly Dolan
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(FTC File No. 062-3139)