$23 Million Judgment Against Owners of Debt Collection Agency

On March 26, 2014, the United States District Court for the Central District of California entered a Final Order for Permanent Injunction and Monetary Judgment in Federal Trade Commission v. Rincon Management Services, LLC et al. pursuant to a stipulation between the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the two principal owners of Rincon Management Services, LLC (“Rincon”), a California-based collection agency.  The Final Order entered judgment in the amount of $23,084,885 against the two principal owners as equitable monetary relief.   Furthermore, the Final Order permanently enjoined the two principal owners from engaging in debt collection activities; assisting others engaged in debt collection activities; misrepresenting or assisting others in misrepresenting any material fact concerning financial-related products and services; and advertising, marketing, promoting, offering for sale, selling, or assisting others engaged in the advertising, marketing, promoting, offering for sale, or selling, of any portfolio of consumer or commercial debt and any program that gathers, organizes, or stores consumer information relating to a debt or debt collection activities.  All money paid to the FTC pursuant to the Judgment is required to be used for equitable relief, including consumer redress. 

In October 2011, the FTC filed a complaint for permanent injunction and other equitable relief against Rincon and other companies associated with Rincon.  The complaint alleged that defendants violated the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTCA”) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by making bogus threats that consumers had been sued or could be arrested.  The Complaint also alleged that the defendants violated the FTCA and FDCPA by calling consumers and their employers, family, friends, and neighbors, posing as process servers seeking to deliver legal papers purportedly related to a lawsuit.  In most of the instances, the consumers did not even owe the debt the defendants were attempting to collect.  As Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, commented: “These debt collectors focused on Spanish-speaking consumers and other people who were strapped for cash, and preyed on them by using abusive collection tactics in violation of federal law.”

As maintained in a recent FTC Press Release, the $23 million judgment will be suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay.  However, certain personal assets defendants agreed to surrender and the $3 million in frozen funds held by the receiver as part of the FTC’s 2011 temporary restraining order will be exempt from the suspension.

The recent Judgment demonstrates the FTC’s commitment to suppressing illegal debt collection practices.  Notably, litigation still continues against several companies that were involved in Rincon’s illegal debt collection actions.

For more information on this lawsuit or on debt collection and fair debt collection statutes contact Joseph Messer at jmesser@messerstrickler.com or Katherine Olson at kolson@messerstrickler.com.