Felony Charges Against Debt Collection Company that Targeted Military Personnel

September 27, 2010 Updated Sep 27, 2010 at 2:26 PM EDT

By WKBW Internet

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Felony Charges Against Debt Collection Company that Targeted Military Personnel

September 27, 2010 Updated Sep 27, 2010 at 2:26 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW/RELEASE) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the filing of felony charges against the owner of a debt collection company that targeted military personnel and harassed active members of the military and their families.

The investigation led to the filing of criminal charges against Stephanie Lowinger of Anderson Place in Buffalo, owner and operator of Neimen, Rona & Associates, formerly Morgan, Stone & Associates and now known as Gordon, Cappolli & Associates, all debt collection companies based in the Buffalo area. In addition to the criminal charges, the Attorney General has also filed a civil lawsuit seeking to shut down Lowinger’s operation and secure restitution, penalties, and costs. The action is the latest in Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing probe of illegal practices in the debt collection industry.

The investigation found that Lowinger specifically targeted military personnel, referring to their alleged debts as “special accounts.” Lowinger instructed employees to find out where the military members were stationed and identify their commanding officers. Lowinger had employees threaten to call and, in some cases, actually did call the commanding officers, both of which are illegal debt collection tactics.

According to a former employee, Lowinger also contacted the military
personnel’s family members in order compel them to pay, another
illegal tactic. In addition, the investigation uncovered that Lowinger
falsely told military members or their families that she worked for the
Department of Justice and illegally demanded immediate payment. She
allegedly said that if payment was not made immediately, the active duty
family member would be arrested by the military police and would face a dishonorable discharge.

“This individual is accused of operating her businesses in a lawless
fashion, instructing her collectors to do anything necessary to collect
on an alleged debt, even if it meant harassing and threatening members
of the military and their families,” said Attorney General Cuomo.

“We will continue to investigate debt collectors who try to take
advantage of unsuspecting individuals facing hard economic times and we will bring them to justice.”

Among the allegations detailed in Attorney General Cuomo’s court
papers, Lowinger and her collectors:
● Falsely claimed to be lawyers, investigators, detectives, and
mediators
● Threatened consumers with arrest, jail, and lawsuits
● Threatened to seize the assets of consumers
● Inflated the amount allegedly owed
● Attempted to collect debts from consumers not knowing if the
consumer actually owed the debt
● Targeted family members of consumers, wrongfully disclosing the
existence of alleged debts to family members, and attempted to collect
the alleged debts from family members
● Harassed consumers through repeated and constant calls, using
abusive language
● Levied unauthorized charges on the credit card accounts of
consumers

The civil case against Stephanie Lowinger and Neimen Rona & Associates is being handled by Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey and Senior Consumer Fraud Representative Karen Davis under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs J. David Sampson. The criminal case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Paul McCarthy under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Richard Ernst and Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau.