WNY Man Charged for Allegedly Running Debt Collection Business from Prison

August 25, 2010 Updated Aug 25, 2010 at 2:59 PM EDT

By WKBW Programming


WNY Man Charged for Allegedly Running Debt Collection Business from Prison

August 25, 2010 Updated Aug 25, 2010 at 2:59 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW/RELEASE) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday that his office has filed criminal charges against Lamont Cooper, 38, formerly of Heritage Drive in Lancaster, for allegedly operating his Buffalo-based debt collection agency while incarcerated in federal prison on unrelated charges.

Cooper was previously barred by court order from the debt
collection industry in 2009 after Attorney General Cuomo’s Office
determined that his operation regularly used threats and intimidation
against consumers.

According to the felony complaint, Cooper continued to operate CMC
Recovery Services, Inc., d/b/a Legal Action Recovery located on Bailey
Avenue in Buffalo in violation of a May 2009 court order barring him
from the business. Cooper and CMC Recovery Services were charged in Buffalo City Court with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (class E felony) and Cooper was charged with Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree (class A misdemeanor). Today’s action is the latest development in Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing probe into unlawful debt collection practices.

“This suspect is accused of continuing to run an abusive debt
collection operation despite a court order barring him from doing so and
despite being an inmate in federal prison,” said Attorney General
Cuomo. “Such disregard of the law will not be tolerated and we will
hold him accountable for the harm he has caused to families throughout
the country.”

According to the felony complaint, consumers have complained that
Cooper’s employees continue to engage in the debt collection business
despite the court order barring the practice. The complaint also alleges
that Cooper’s collectors continue to routinely pose as law enforcement
officials and threaten to arrest consumers and throw them in jail unless
they made arrangements to pay the company immediately.

The complaint alleges that Cooper’s involvement in the scheme
continued even after he was taken into federal custody in October 2009
for being found in violation of the terms of his release from a 1997
drug conviction. An investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies
included the monitoring of his correspondence during his incarceration
at a federal detention facility in Batavia. The surveillance determined
that Cooper was still actively involved in the debt collection business,
including instructing employees on how to manage accounts and personnel matters, and requesting that he be kept abreast of “all banking activity.”

According to information obtained during the civil investigation into
these actions, Legal Action Recovery collectors regularly demanded
payment for non-existent debts and demanded payments for debts that had already passed the statute of limitations or were discharged in
bankruptcy. Using false law enforcement identities, collectors coerced
and cajoled terrified victims into agreeing to make payments. Frightened
at the prospect of arrest and humiliation, many victims were asked to
pay by credit/debit card, authorize withdrawals from their checking
accounts, and/or send Western Union money grams. More details about the judgment and order against Cooper and his companies can be found at here.

Cooper will be arraigned on the charges once he is returned from
federal custody. Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison and Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree carries a penalty of up to one year in jail. CMC may be fined up to $10,000 or double the amount of the corporation’s gain.