BUFFALO, NY (Release) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the filing ofcriminal charges against 12 employees of several Buffalo-area debtcollection companies for posing as law enforcement officials andthreatening to have consumers thrown in jail unless theyimmediately paid off the debts that they supposedly owed.
All of the individuals charged today worked for one or more ofthe debt collection companies owned by Buffalo resident TobiasBoyland, which were shut down in June under an order obtained byCuomo’s office.
Since announcing that case during the summer, the AttorneyGeneral’s Office has compiled more than 1,000 complaintsagainst Boyland and his companies. Today’s charges andarrests are a part of the Attorney General’s ongoing probeinto unlawful debt collection practices.
“The tactics allegedly used here are some of the worst ofthe worst in the debt collection business," said Attorney GeneralCuomo. “The defendants’ alleged lies, deceit andintimidation caused many innocent people to pay money they didn'towe just to stop the terrifying calls.
My office will continue to seek out and punish companies thatprey on consumers and violate clearly written laws regarding debtcollection.”
According to the felony complaints, the defendants stolethousands of dollars from consumers from across the country byusing the threat of criminal charges and incarceration to collectdebts that often did not exist, had passed the statute oflimitations or had been previously discharged through bankruptcy.The collectors also regularly inflated the amount owed on an actualdebt and would falsely tell consumers that they were being sued incivil court.
The complaints allege that the collectors used false lawenforcement identities to coerce and cajole terrified consumersinto agreeing to make the payments. Frightened at the prospect ofarrest and humiliation, consumers authorized withdrawals from theirchecking accounts, wired money, or sent money orders to thecollectors. Consumers were intentionally given misleading names,addresses and telephone numbers that led them to believe thebusinesses were located far from the Buffalo area.
The 12 individuals were charged in Town of Cheektowaga Courtwith multiple counts of grand larceny in the 4th degree (class Efelony), which carries a maximum sentence of 4 years in prison foreach count.
The following individuals were charged today:
- Tina Almond, 30, of Marsdale Road, Cheektowaga
- Marcus Brown, 32, of Hoyt Street, Buffalo
- Andrew Brzyski, 25, of Mary Lou Lane, Depew
- Boris Burch, 49, of Kenmore Avenue, Buffalo
- Rhonda DeSousa, 44, of Thornton Avenue, Buffalo
- Jeremy Hapka, 22, of E. Rouen Drive, Buffalo
- Kenneth MacGregor, 33, of Hodge Avenue, Buffalo
- Danielle Miller, 33, of Highgate Avenue, Buffalo
- Tracey Pritchett, 39, of Humboldt Parkway, Buffalo
- Jammiea Simpson, 35, of Elmer Avenue, Buffalo
- Bennie Davis, 47, Howard Street, Buffalo
- Meghan Williams, 30, of Hussey Avenue, Buffalo
According to the criminal charges and a civil lawsuit filed byCuomo’s office in June, Boyland and three other individuals -Kayla Pritchett, Dellian Sharp and Dorian Wills - operated numerouscollection companies in at least four locations in Western NewYork. The debt collection agencies operated under several namesacross the Buffalo area, including: Central Resource Management,Final Claims Asset Locators, Final Control Asset Locators,Interchange Payment Solutions, Next Step Services, Portfolio AssetAssurance, Silverbay Services, and Teleport. Boyland was recentlyindicted by an Erie County Grand Jury on weapon charges.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the New YorkState debt collection and consumer protection laws prohibit thefollowing conduct: posing as an attorney, threatening lawsuits orother legal action which cannot be taken, saying a consumercommitted a crime or will be arrested, and talking with thirdparties except to get location information. The law furtherrequires collection agencies to send a written notice within fivedays of initial communication with the consumer explaining how heor she can dispute the debt. If properly disputed, the collectionagency must stop all collection attempts and send verification.
The arrests and charges are part of an ongoing investigation byAttorney General Cuomo into unlawful debt collection practices. Inrecent months, Cuomo has shut down multiple debt collectioncompanies and required others to reform their deceptive practices.Lawsuits against several other collection companies arepending.
Cuomo urges consumers to visit www.NYDebtHelp.com to learntheir rights. The site allows victims of debt collection and debtsettlement companies quick access to the Attorney Generals officeto file complaints, and outlines the stages of the AttorneyGeneral’s investigation.
The criminal case is handled by Assistant Attorney General PaulF. McCarthy under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief of theCriminal Prosecutions Bureau Richard Ernst and Executive DeputyAttorney General for Criminal Justice Robin L. Baker. Theinvestigation was handled by Investigators Michael G. McCartney,Paul R. Scherf, Jr. and Sandra Migaj under the supervision ofDeputy Chief Investigator James Domres. Staff from the AttorneyGeneral’s Buffalo Regional Office is assisting in the case.The Attorney General thanked the Erie County Sheriff’s Officefor their help during the execution of the court ordered searchwarrants and the arrests of the defendants.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations, andthe defendants are presumed innocent unless and until provenguilty.
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