Fake debt scheme nets more than $200,000. Downside: possible 20-year prison sentence


Credit: Lois Norder

How's this for a business plan: Form a company, call a bunch of people and get them to pay money they don't owe.

It may sound dubious, but it was a money maker, apparently bringing in more than $200,000 in a few months' time, court documents say. Sharing in the haul were two Georgia residents  -- Derron Washington and Jennifer Smith -- using  a list of names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and bank information supplied by a man in Florida, Alex Plumb.

Washington and Smith set up shop in Douglas, Georgia in 2015 and began working the phones.

This is the Civil Procedures Division, they and others told people who were called. You owe money for a payday loan or credit card debt,  and if you don't pay up you could get a summons to appear in court.

Hundreds of people paid the phony debts. Court records say they got $815.32 from one person. Another transferred $798.13. Several paid $598.13. And so on. Washington, Smith and Florida resident Alex Plumb shared the loot through their company, Crown Oaks Media, prosecutors said in an indictment filed in September.

On Tuesday, Washington, who has a history of other financial crimes, took a plea deal, admitting that he took part in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a prison term of up to 20 years. The deal also requires him to pay restitution and cooperate with prosecutors in the cases against his former partners.

Criminal charges against Smith and Plumb are pending.

Georgia has been home to several phony debt-collecting companies. John Todd Williams, who had a Norcross company Williams, Scott & Associates, is serving a five-year sentence at Marianna Federal Correctional Institution in Florida, in connection with one.

Other Georgia companies accused of similar schemes didn't suffer criminal penalties. Read details here: http://investigations.blog.ajc.com/2017/01/10/is-georgia-a-haven-for-abusive-debt-collectors/

Here's a great story about one victim who fought back, on a vendetta after a phony debt collector threatened to rape his wife: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-12-06/millions-are-hounded-for-debt-they-don-t-owe-one-victim-fought-back-with-a-vengeance

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