A US jury have awarded over a whopping $500,000 in damages to a couple in California after finding international debt collection agency, Credigy Services Crop., engaged in harassing and abusive debt collection practices.
Tomio Narita of Simmonds and Narita, one of two law firms representing Credigy, said Tuesday it is premature to comment because U.S. District Judge James Ware has not entered the verdict, which is a procedural requirement.
Santa Cruz attorney Balam Letona was among the four lawyers representing Manuel and Luz Fausto, who live in Gonzales.
“The industry is very bold in the way they collect debt,” Letona said. “There are laws to protect people. The only way it can be enforced is if the consumer takes the case to court.”
In August 2006, Fausto received a letter from Credigy claiming he owed nearly $17,000 on a Wells Fargo credit card he opened in 1992.
Fausto contended he had settled the debt, initially $2,000, with the help of a debt negotiator in 1999.
He sought help at the Watsonville Law Center, which drafted a dispute letter asking for documentation to validate the claim. When he did not receive any documents, attorneys at the nonprofit law center drafted a cease-and-desist letter for him.
Credigy, based in Suwanee, Ga., pressed on to collect the money.
Letona said the company had collectors in Brazil make 90 phone calls over 15 months. He alleged the tactics used resulted in emotional distress, anxiety, depression and marital instability for the couple.
In November 2007, when Credigy claimed debt had grown to $22,500, Luz Fausto recorded a phone call from a Credigy debt collector saying the interest was nearly 24 percent, that Credigy was a “credit agency” and lack of payment would “always” be on their credit report.
Credigy counter-sued, alleging the recording was made without company permission, but the jury found the company did not suffer any damages.
The jury verdict, which was unanimous, awarded $50,000 each to Mr. and Mrs. Fausto for compensatory damages and $400,000 in punitive damages for reckless disregard of their rights.
“It takes a lot of guts to take a case to trial,” said Letona, who spent a year and a half on the case