CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw said on Tuesday his office has obtained a court order halting illegal loan collections in the state by companies from Illinois and Nevada.
According to McGraw's office, Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky ordered the two collection agencies -- Ezell Williams in Illinois and Frontier Financial Group LLC in Nevada -- to cease collecting debts in West Virginia.
The companies, which declined to appear at a recent hearing, also were ordered to comply with investigative subpoenas issued by McGraw's office.
Stucky further banned the agencies from collecting Internet payday loans, which are illegal in West Virginia.
Since it began its investigations in 2005, McGraw's office has entered into settlement agreements with 112 Internet payday lenders and their collection agencies, resulting in about $2.5 million in refunds and cancelled debts for nearly 8,000 West Virginia consumers.
"It is unacceptable for unscrupulous companies to ignore our state's licensing laws while legitimate companies comply," McGraw said in a statement Tuesday.
McGraw's office said it had received complaints that Ezell Williams and Frontier Financial were collecting illegal Internet payday loans allegedly owed to Money & More, in direct violation of Money & More's April 17, 2009, agreement with the Attorney General's Office in which the company promised to cancel all debts allegedly owed by West Virginia consumers.
The attorney general promptly opened an investigation of Ezell Williams, owned by Charles L. Dickey III and Charles L. Dickey of Illinois, and Frontier Financial Group, owned by Martin G. Mazzura, Salvatore Mazzura and Paula Engelbrecht, all of Nevada.
McGraw's office said its investigation also revealed that the companies were not licensed or bonded by the State Tax Department to collect debts in West Virginia, as legally required.