CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has filed a lawsuit against an Ohio collection agency he says used "strong-arm" tactics to get people to pay up.
McGraw sued National Enterprise Systems Inc. in Kanawha Circuit Court on Tuesday. The company is based in Solon, Ohio.
At least two West Virginians were threatened by the company, McGraw's office claims.
A Braxton woman allowed NES to charge $5,000 to her credit card because the company allegedly threatened to have her daughter arrested at her job, the office said in a news release.
NES also allegedly told the father of a Kanawha woman that she would be arrested for defrauding the federal government unless she immediately paid $5,000 on a student loan.
"Failure to pay a debt is not a crime and companies that make such false threats have violated both state and federal debt collection law," McGraw said. "My office will not tolerate abuse and harassment of consumers who may be in debt through no fault of their own.
"The Legislature has authorized my office to enforce the laws that prohibit such conduct, and we intend to do so, particularly when the unlawful conduct is as extreme as has been alleged against National Enterprise Systems."
McGraw's lawsuit alleges, among other things, that NES added unlawful collection fees to tuition owed by students in West Virginia colleges and universities.
The attorney general is asking a judge to order NES to stop making threats in connection with debt collections. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties payable by NES to the state and restitution to victims.