Man Arrested by U.S. Marshals For Outstanding Student Loan of $1,500

6227036996_77501c3a14_bA man was arrested recently in his Houston home by U.S. Marshalls for failure to completely pay the government for a small amount owed on a student loan.  Most student loans are backed by the U.S. government so when you don’t pay them you apparently now get to see the U.S. Marshalls at your door with guns drawn.  You don’t need to owe the U.S. government very much.  The man in question only owed $1500.

Paul Aker of Houston came outside slowly with his hands up and he was arrested by the marshals who had surrounded his home.  He said he did not have any idea why he was being arrested until he was in the car on his way to jail where the marshals revealed that he had an outstanding student loan debt.

Mr. Aker had actually paid off two student loans in the past and he believed he did not owe any more to the government.  The arresting agents asked him if he was in the habit of stealing from the U.S. government.

The U.S. Marshalls did release a statement explaining that it is their duty to serve federal process and to make arrests and they had apparently contacted Mr. Akers by phone to get him to appear in court and he refused.  It would have been a good idea for him to go to court before this unfortunate incident because he was forced to pay the government back for the cost of his arrest ($1258.60) in addition to the delinquent loan with interest.

They did “allow” him to pay off the debt in $200 monthly installments but I would ask what happens if he stops paying the monthly amount?  Do more armed agents show up at his door and arrest him again?  Most of my clients can’t afford such monthly installments and therefore they don’t continue to pay them.  Indeed in chapter 13 bankruptcies most debtors fall out of their chapter 13 plans for failure to pay.

I have written in the past about people being arrested and sent to debtor’s prison for unpaid debts but that is rare in America and it is not done at all in most states.  Debtor’s prisons were supposed to be completely outlawed in the 1800s.  The federal government appears to be the worst creditor of all to owe as their full military and police power can be turned against a person for some small student loan as we see here.  For many years similar heavy handed tactics have been reported to have been used by the IRS for unpaid back taxes.  With a private non-student debt you would not see anything like this.

Unfortunately there is not much bankruptcy can do for people with student loan debts.  Currently student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy (unless there is “extreme hardship”) though we attorneys are hoping that someday that law will be changed to allow people to escape these debts if they cannot pay them.  In America there is something like $1.2 trillion owed in student debts and no politician has yet done anything about it.

In the mean time I think it is a good idea to avoid these student loans wherever possible.  They last forever, they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and someday a tragedy could occur when an overzealous marshal pulls a trigger and possibly ends a person’s life for a few delinquent student loan dollars.

For those that already have the loans I would suggest you stay in continual contact with some representative of the government to work out whatever deal you can with them just like you would with the IRS.  If you do not you might have the misfortune of seeing armed federal agents surrounding your house who will place you under arrest and make you appear before a federal judge.  Let’s hope that someday the law will be changed and student loans will become dischargeable in bankruptcy even if the student debt has to be 10 or 20 years old before it is eligible for discharge.

Photo by a.mina from Flickr

 

I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney.  For further questions please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com.  Or call my office for a free consultation or for any other advice about bankruptcy or debt at (619) 702-5015. Call now for free credit report and analysis!

For a free e-book on “13 things to do to prepare for your bankruptcy filing” please e-mail me at farquharesq@yahoo.com.

 

Has a creditor threatened you with jail if you don’t pay them? FDCPA says this is illegal!

Has a creditor threatened you with jail for non-payment of a monetary debt?  This is most probably illegal according to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  Collectors often harass and threaten debtors with all sorts of things that they have no right to threaten.  They will often threaten jailing you if you don’t pay today!  A person just contacted me with this problem and the client was threatened by a creditor to have police show up at their work and arrest them if they did not pay today!  And this creditor did not even file a lawsuit yet!

This is clearly illegal!  With no lawsuit filed there is no judgment and with no judgment no legal right to collect on this debt.  This creditor would have to first obtain this judgment which would give them the right to collect but in California there is no going to jail for owing strictly monetary debts.  And to threaten that police will show up at someone’s work and arrest them when they cannot is a violation of FDCPA section 807(4).

In that section it clearly states that an implication that non-payment will result in arrest or imprisonment unless that action is legal and intended by the party is a violation of this law.  In my client’s case there is no arresting or jailing someone for owning monetary debts so this threat was a violation of the law.  If my client could prove it then we could win damages against this collector.  I told this person to tell the collector that they were recording the call next time and see how fast he hangs up.

Section 807(5) restates this and says that any threat to take any action that is not legal or intended is a violation of the FDCPA.  So this collector violated this section too.  My question is can we get this guy to say this clearly into the microphone so we can replay it for the judge?

So don’t take any crap off of these creditors.  I hate to hear these stories and I answer these e-mails immediately.  We live in a great country where we pride ourselves in our freedom but if these collectors can violate the law with impunity then it threatens all of us.

In a previous blog I discussed how these collectors by far receive the greatest number of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.  They routinely harass, threaten, bother and annoy people and they are now routinely violating the law I believe.  So know your rights and don’t allow them to bamboozle you.

I am an attorney who practices bankruptcy law in California.  For more information please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com .  Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.  Call now for free credit report and analysis! 

If you or someone you know needs to file bankruptcy please get my FREE E-BOOK; 13 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BANKRUPTCY FILING” by e-mailing me at: farquharesq@yahoo.com.