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Federal authorities arrest debt collectors on criminal charges

Americans are taking on more and more debt, and consumers in Georgia are no exception. With a 2.1 percent increase in household debt in the latter part of 2013, it may not come as a surprise to learn that some of these Americans struggled with making payments on some of their debt. When a company is unable to collect on a debt, it sometimes sells it off to a debt collection agency, who then seeks to collect on it. While this is not an uncommon activity, some debt collectors in Georgia are now facing federal criminal charges.

In total, seven men were arrested on allegations of illegally collecting debt. One of those seven apparently purchased debt at a drastically reduced cost, which he would then collect on alongside his employees. However, police suspect that the group may have engaged in illegal practices to bring that debt in. 

The men have been accused of masquerading as agents from the Justice Department or even FBI agents. According to the authorities, the men would then threaten debtors with jail time if they didn't immediately cough up payment for a debt. Some victims may have even been encouraged to take out payday loans.

Although before filing charges the FBI did search the debt collectors' office, another office was subsequently opened in a new location, reportedly to avoid detection. However, an arrest is no indication of guilt for any of these men. The burden of proof will ultimately lie with the prosecution, who must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these men collected debts in an illegal manner, and that each element of the charges is established by appropriate evidence. Until such a time that they may have to face these criminal charges in a federal court in Georgia, establishing a solid defense built on applicable laws can be an appropriate course of action.

Source: The Guardian, "Georgia debt collectors posed as FBI agents to intimidate victims", Jana Kasperkevic, Nov. 18, 2014

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