Two debt collectors were sentenced recently to 8 and 6-year prison terms for absconding with $2.7 million. Darrian Summers and Stefan Miller both of the former debt collection agency, Maxwell, Turner & Associates, received their prison terms after being convicted of fraud conspiracy or money laundering. The federal court ordered Miller and Summers to pay about $1.3 million in restitution to victims.
Although Summers and Miller both plead guilty to their crimes, a third man, Paul Vasquez insisted on a trial. Vasquez is believed to be the actual owner of the debt collection agency according to federal sources. He is accused of using the debt collection agency to trick victims into paying debt collection fees for non-existent services.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner won an 23-count indictment against Vasquez charging the debt collector with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. If convicted Vasquez, presumed-innocent, faces up to 40 years in prison and up to a $750,000.00 fine as well as restitution.
According to Wagner, the case against the three debt collectors derived from extensive investigations by the Internal Revenue Service, local police, and the local district attorney’s office as well as the federal government.
Consumers must be careful about who they send payments especially when dealing with debt collectors. At this time, it is unknown whether consumers will be voluntarily credited for any payments they made to Maxwell, Turner & Associates believing it to be a legitimate debt collection agency. However, should creditors or subsequent debt collectors not voluntarily credit the stolen payments, powerful consumer protection laws should provide a measure of protection. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) will not permit debt collectors to misrepresent the amount of consumer debt that is allegedly owed. Additionally, the FDCPA is unlikely to tolerate the shifting of the losses to debtors who already made payments in good faith.