Prosecutors Team With Debt Collectors to Terrorize Consumers

Julie Orr has plenty of reasons to bounce a check.

In just a few years, she's gone from running a successful advertising business to being a single mom on disability. Hers is a dilemma of American life: A leg injury keeps her from working, but she can't afford the surgery without health insurance.

Yet Orr says her woes didn't lead her to write a bum check at the grocery store. "Sure, we've fallen on tough times," says the 54-year-old from Riverside, California. "But I've never bounced a check before in my life. I've always been on top of my finances."

Accidentally overdrawing one's bank account isn't a crime. It is, however, a hyper-lucrative business, allowing banks to collect $30 billion a year in overdraft fees while their customers frantically swim back to the surface. Such is the bounty of faulty math.

So Orr was shocked when she received a letter from the Riverside District Attorney's Office accusing her of fraud.

In May, she wrote a check for $91 at an Albertson's grocery store. A few days later, while reviewing her bank account, she noticed that the check had bounced. Orr headed back to Albertson's to make good on her payment. But she was told that the store had already placed her in collections. It was out of the grocer's hands.

A month later, Orr received a letter from the District Attorney's Office. It inexplicably accused her of intent to commit fraud, noting that she was now eligible for "up to one year in the county jail." The only way to avoid criminal charges: participate in the county's "voluntary" bad-check restitution program.

"The letter really made me think I'd go to jail if I didn't," she says.

But the DA wanted more than Albertson's $91 back. Though California law restricts the penalty on bad checks to $25, the letter demanded $333.51, which included $175 for a "voluntary" financial-accountability class she'd have to take.

Orr didn't even consider arguing her innocence. She just wanted the problem solved. So she called the 1-800 number on the letter to make arrangements to pay in cash at the sheriff's department. When she was told she could only send a check to a P.O. box, Orr grew suspicious.

"That's when I asked if I was actually talking to someone in the DA's Office," she says. "And they said no, that they were a company being paid to represent the DA."

In fact, Orr had contacted Corrective Solutions, a private company from San Clemente. According to its website, it handles bad-check cases for 140 district attorneys nationwide — jurisdictions that oversee 65 million people, from Colorado to Florida, Michigan to Washington.

Consider it the privatizing of justice. Instead of investigating bad-check complaints, prosecutors simply pass them along to Corrective Solutions. The company then uses official DA letterhead to threaten jail time if consumers don't pay up. Corrective Solutions also runs the "voluntary" financial-accountability classes, and prosecutors get a cut of the profits while barely lifting a finger.

Unfortunately, the entire system runs on a one-size-fits-all presumption of guilt. No one's bothering to investigate whether the check writer was working a scam or merely suffering from a momentary lapse of mathematics.

Orr e-mailed Corrective Solutions, saying she'd be happy to repay the $91 plus a $50 fee. But she wanted to skip the "voluntary" class. She simply couldn't afford it.

Corrective Solutions didn't respond ― but the threatening letters kept coming.

"When no one wrote me back, I'd had it," Orr says. "I'd tried everything, even calling the District Attorney's Office directly. No one could help me. I just don't see how this is right, or even legal."


Debtors' prisons were outlawed in 1833, when America decided it was counter-productive — and a waste of time and money — to imprison people for being broke. Despite myth to the contrary, most people avoid their bills simply because they can't pay them, not because they're on the make.

"There was a [federal] study done in 1974 about why people didn't pay their debts," says Bob Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center. "And the number of people who could but didn't pay their debts was 0.4 percent . . . The most typical reasons were they lost their jobs, got divorced. Some overspent, but were encouraged to. Others got cheated, and so on and so forth. Some people had even died. It's not right, but it's life. And it's the cost of doing business."

So Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in 1978, barring collections agencies from threatening jail time and deceiving consumers.

"We have members that collect on behalf of the government, from federal student loans to meter fines," says Mark Schiffman of the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, the industry's largest trade association. "We can't put the logo of a government agency on our letterhead. We can't say we're from the Department of Education. We have to say that we're 'ABC,' a company working on behalf of the Department of Education."

Yet Congress created a loophole in 2006, granting what amounts to immunity from deception charges for collection agencies working on behalf of law enforcement.

Corrective Solutions paid handsomely for the bill. Between 2003 and 2006, the company spent more than $660,000 on lobbying. It also slathered donations on key senators like Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd, who would later leave office after accepting a sweetheart deal from a mortgage company.

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11 comments
Quano
Quano

So will we find that the person who runs this abusing shake down debt collection is friends or a family member of someone in power  in California?  Where are those who are suppose to be working and representing the common citizen?  Why is it that there seems to be two sets of laws in our country of late, one for the so called uber rich and one for the rest of us so called  useless eaters?http://hcaextract.wufoo.com/forms/buy-garcinia-cambogia-fat-buster/ http://greencoffeebeanmax.wufoo.com/forms/buy-green-coffee-bean-extract-800mg/ http://hcaextract.wufoo.com/forms/buy-garcinia-cambogia-online/ http://fatlossfactor.wufoo.com/forms/fastest-way-to-lose-weight/

penkdooo
penkdooo

Thats some pretty scary stuff man, WIw.


www.GoToAnon.tk

trankmonk
trankmonk

Sounds like a pretty solid plan to me dude. Wow.


www.irAnon.tk

MaybeNextSeason
MaybeNextSeason

This is what Democrip and Rebloodican voters want though.  I cannot understand why you sheep are bah bah bahing about it.

faizy_rao
faizy_rao

If you think Gregory`s story is terrific,, 5 weaks-ago my cousins best friend basically recieved a check for $8589 putting in a twenty hour week an their house and there classmate's step-aunt`s neighbour done this for four months and got over $8589 part time from their labtop. applie the guidelines from this site, http://xurl.es/ukio6

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

If Brewski was involved in this, she would demand prison sentences at a CCA private prison, where inmates are forced to make shoes and shirts in a 100 degree sweat shop.

trankmonk
trankmonk

The kangaroo court system is a money making machine!


www.Anon-Dis.tk

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

I remember when Candy Andy and the Miscreants tried to come after me for allegedly passing a bad check on a closed bank account.

It failed. Badly.

Cozz
Cozz

The justice system has become more criminal than the criminals themselves over money.

marcy
marcy

Law enforcement has become a for-profit business.

With more laws added every year it is also a growth industry.  Think about it the next time you support some half-baked new law.

 
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