CHARLESTON - West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw is suing seven unlicensed collection agencies, and their owners, to enforce investigative subpoenas and stop them from engaging in unlawful practices in the state.
On Tuesday, McGraw's office said it began investigating the companies after receiving complaints alleging they engaged in "abusive" and "unlawful" debt collection practices.
The attorney general said the practices included repeated harassing phone calls, impersonating law enforcement and judicial officers, making false threats that non-payment will result in arrest or criminal prosecution, and collecting non-existent debts or debts that have already been paid.
Spokesman Norman Googel said McGraw's office received at least one complaint, if not a few, for each company.
"When we receive even one complaint, we investigate," he explained. "From that one complaint, we can tell if they are a licensed company or if they are violating the law."
Googel said unlicensed debt collection agencies tend to operate in a similar, systematic way.
"If a certain type of threat was made to one person, we find that that's what they do to everybody."
That's why, after receiving any complaints, the Attorney General's Office issues an investigative subpoena, Googel said.
"We want to find who you are, what kind of debts you are collecting, etc.," he explained.
In this case, McGraw's office issued subpoenas requiring the seven companies and their owners to produce records of all their collection activities in the state.
The companies refused to comply, which led to the attorney general's filing of the enforcement action this week.
"These types of companies are the kind that tend to not comply with our subpoenas," Googel said. "And that's what brings us to this type of action.
"As long as we have a good address, we will do everything we can to enforce those subpoenas."
The companies and individuals sued by McGraw's office include:
- County Filing Services Inc. and Portfolio Investment Financial, and owner Todd Loop;
- Investment Management and Recoveries Inc. and Randall Ray Goins;
- Rosenthal, Stein and Associates LLC and Sharisse Williams;
- Vision Credit Solutions LLC and James P. Belstadt;
- National Capital Management Inc., and Ryan Daniel Todora and Natalie Lynn Rowe; and
- Dorsey Thornton and Associates LLC, and Wyteria Dorsey and Michael Thornton.
All seven of the companies are from out of state, Googel noted.
He said a hearing will be held and a court will most likely order the companies to comply with the subpoenas. The companies will most likely be given 30 days from the court order to turn over the requested information.
If they don't, Googel said the next step is to file for petition of contempt.
"Then another hearing would be held, and they would have to show good reason as to why they can't turn over the documents," he said.
Most likely, the companies, or their owners, won't show up to any of the hearings, he said.
"The court then can issue other actions, like fines, to force them to comply," Googel said, adding that is a common remedy.
Fines, he said, might finally get the companies' attention.
"I have directed my staff to aggressively pursue all such violators and to do whatever it takes to force compliance with laws governing the conduct of collection agencies," McGraw said in a statement.