A U.S. district court closed a Houston-based debt collection operation that allegedly illegally used insults, lies and false threats to collect on payday loans, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The case against the Goldman Schwartz Inc. includes allegedly telling a Virginia woman she would be arrested and jailed for three years, and would lose her disability payments if she did not pay a $980 debt.

The FTC's complaint is against Goldman Schwartz, three affiliated companies and three individuals who own or manage them.  The operation did business nationwide collecting debts for numerous payday loan companies, including Ace Cash Express, Advance America, Allied Cash Advance, Checkmate, First Cash Advance and MoneyMart.

The court froze the operation's assets, banned the defendants from engaging in collections and appointed a receiver to take control of the business while the FTC moves ahead with the case.

Along with using false threats of arrest and imprisonment, the operation allegedly told some consumers their minor children would be taken into government custody; disclosed debts to family members and military superiors; falsely claimed to work hand-in-hand with local sheriff’s offices; and collected bogus late fees and attorneys’ fees, the FTC complaint alleged.

The complaint charges the defendants with multiple violations of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including:

    •    falsely representing that Goldman Schwartz is a law firm and owner Gerald Wright is an attorney named Barry Schwartz.
    •    falsely claiming that consumers have committed crimes by not paying their debts, will be arrested or jailed, and will lose custody of their minor children.
    •    falsely claiming to be affiliated with or work in conjunction with law enforcement agencies.
    •    harassing and abusing consumers by using obscene or profane language, calling repeatedly or continuously, and calling late in the evening or early in the morning.
    •    adding unauthorized late fees and attorney’s fees to the amount consumers owe on their debts, and
    •    failing to inform consumers of their rights to dispute the debts, have the debts verified, and obtain the names of the original creditors.

Specifically, the complaint names as defendants Goldman Schwartz Inc, also doing business as Goldman, Schwartz, Lieberman & Stein; Debtcom, Inc., also doing business as Cole, Tanner, & Wright; Harris County Check Recovery Inc.; The G. Wright Group Inc., also doing business as The Wright Group; Gerald Wright, also known as Barry Schwartz; Starlette Foster, also known as Star Foster; and Jennifer Zamora.

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