A Buffalo debt collector was busted this week by state and federal agents for using abusive and illegal debt collection practices.
Robert Heidenreich, who controlled six companies under separate names out of a Kenmore Avenue office suite according to the state Attorney General’s Office, used the tactics to take money from people who could least afford it.
Prosecutors accused Heidenreich and his collectors of posing as police, prosecutors, and attorneys to frighten consumers into paying debts they did not actually owe.
Assistant Attorney General Christopher Boyd led the investigation into the Heidenreich companies.. with the assistance of the Federal Trade Commission.
They found that collectors would pretend to be law enforcement and would threaten consumers with arrest. They would tell consumers that someone was coming out to their house, either to deliver court papers, or possibly to arrest them.
“We don’t have debtors prisons in this country anymore, so these types of calls are almost inevitably a scam,” Boyd said. “There will also be the money laundering charges. The Internet was used to defraud a lending institution. You can play whatever games you would like, but unfortunately this is not going to disappear. Good luck in court.”
The Attorney General has obtained a court order to freeze Heidenreich’s assets and appoint a receiver to oversee his books.
“This is money that people needed to pay rent. It is money that people needed to pay for food and clothing for them and their children,” Boyd said. “The only reason they made these payments is because they thought that if they did not they would be going to jail.”