Jacksonville Collections Agency Must Modify Practices, Pay Victim Restitution

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Company allegedly called debtors at work, falsely threatened criminal action if payments were not made immediately

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office has reached a settlement resolving a lawsuit brought against a Jacksonville collection agency and two individuals accused of deceptive business practices. The agreement addresses allegations that Robert Allen Hecht and Rougina Hecht, acting individually and on behalf of their collection company, Allen Lewis & Associates, engaged in various inappropriate tactics to collect payments from debtors. The settlement calls for $21,000 in victim restitution and requires the company to institute a compliance program to ensure that violations of fair debt collection standards do not continue to occur.

"Collection agencies should never employ cruel or forceful tactics to take advantage of those are trying to resolve a debt," said Attorney General McCollum. "Our state has standards in place that protect consumers from predatory or intimidating collection methods and we will continue to enforce those standards for the public good."

An investigation conducted by the Attorney General's Economic Crimes Division revealed that the company was contracted by payday lenders and musical instrument rental companies to collect on defaulted payments. Company employees allegedly impersonated lawyers and law enforcement officers and made numerous calls to individuals at home and at work, falsely threatening criminal charges in order to collect payments. Under Florida law, such behavior is a direct violation of Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act as well as a violation of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Act.

In addition to paying victim restitution, the company will also be required to record all outgoing calls if more than six complaints are received within a six-month period. The recorded calls may be used as part of the required compliance program which will include a trained compliance officer. Allen Lewis & Associates must reimburse the state $30,000 for the costs of investigation and litigation.

A summary of the debt collection practices permitted under Florida law is available on the Attorney General's website here.

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