In these struggling financial times, there are ruthless opportunistic people who prey upon the poor, and upon those whom they perceive to be too weak to defend themselves. These predators show no compassion to those who are without money, and who are struggling to keep their homes, and look after their families. These bottom-feeding sociopaths are known as debt collectors. They employ a plethora of dirty tricks and deceptions to steal everything away from their victims, awhile figuring that such behaviors are safe, due to their victims' likely inability to afford legal counsel. They are literally cancerous to our society.
What is a particularly bad aspect of these banking hit men is that in a huge percentage of their cases, they willfully terrorize people over debts which are not required, by law, to be paid, or debts which never existed in the first place. If you have ever received a threatening letter from a company that you have never done business with, which demands that you to pay them money that you never owed, then you are far from alone.
|(ker' • rupt)
|1. Marked by immorality and perversion; depraved. 2. Venal; dishonest: a corrupt mayor. 3. Containing errors or alterations, as a text: a corrupt translation. 4. Archaic Tainted; putrid.
The second thing that you should do is to educate yourself in the basic laws surrounding debts and debt collections; because if you do not know what your rights are, then you do not have any.
Around a year ago, Thomas received a 'Civil Summons' from a law firm which was representing Unifund CCR Partners, who had allegedly bought a debt that was supposedly from a closed and charged-off Citibank (a.k.a. Citigroup Inc. and Citi Financial) account.
Allow me to pause briefly to state that is absolutely immoral on so many levels to buy someone else's debt, and it is perhaps the first indication that our credit system is actually a system of slavery that is intended to force the poor into a system of perpetual debt, like indentured servitude -- except the indentured servants of the past were freed after a specified period of time. Many of the debt collectors change the rules and terms of the indebted accounts without consent, or even a notification to the supposed debtors. Changing the rules is certainly illegal, and purchasing a 3rd party's debts without consent ought to be equally illegal in every civilized nation. This is easily one of the darkest and most shameful aspects of American government that I have seen yet.
I'd like you to meet Pedro Zabala, II (above). He was the opposing attorney from the law firm, Sessoms and Rogers, which specializes in representing large corporations against poor citizens who are unable to hire representation. I highly recommend the documentary, "Maxed Out", which covers the issue of people who were unable to pay, and who eventually took their own lives to escape their debts. This is the sort of business that Pedro works in, apparently, without shame. Pedro actually boasts at his company web site that he on the board of directors for the National Association of Retail Collections Attorneys, and his legal areas are "creditors' rights, collections, and banking law." Creditor rights?
We were likewise shocked to find that Branch Banking & Trust Co. is one of their client corporations, for we have done business with this bank ourselves; because we believed they were more ethical than most other banks. We will have to rethink that opinion, and it seems quite likely from this association that BB&T has some things to be ashamed of. I have to wonder, how many former BB&T customers are now homeless because BB&T unleashed this ruthless attack dog upon them? Apparently, the customer isn't always right at BB&T. After all, foreclosures are one of Pedro's specialties.
One of the things that I noticed about the lawsuit against Thomas was that the lawyers were not playing fairly; particularly in regard to the 'Statute of Limitations'. This is a phrase which reaps fear in the hearts of debt collectors everywhere. It is the amount of time that they have to get money from you, before they can no longer use the force of law. The clock starts ticking at the date of the last payment, and stops as soon as they file their Civil Summons with the court. The Statute of Limitations is different for each State. Here, in North Carolina, it is 3 years for an 'Open End Account'; which all credit card accounts are. To find out the law in your state, I highly recommend reading from The Credit Info Center. When the Statute Of Limitations runs out, you have an 'Absolute Defense' in court; meaning that you have no chance of losing, if you decide to use it as your defense. In such cases, the courts are required, by law, to cast their judgments in your favor.
Debt collectors may still send you letters, but you need only to send them a 'cease and desist' letter via registered mail, and they cannot mail you anymore without breaking the law. You may also demand that they place you on their 'do not call list' (remember that phrase), and it likewise becomes illegal for them to ever contact you by telephone again. You can make them powerless over you with these legal defenses, and even sue them if they attempt to bypass these laws. Be sure to keep meticulous records, because your harassers will get likely get penalized per incident, and because these records will help to win your case. We recommend recording the calls, and learning the law about recording telephone conversations.
Pedro tried to play a very sneaky game, by referring to Thomas' former credit card account as a "Promissory Note" in his 'summons', instead of an Open End Account. In doing this, he was trying to fraudulently extend the Statute Of Limitations to 10 years, instead of three. He obviously did this intentionally, because he wrote an entire book about these games entitled, Collection Management And Judgment Enforcement: Innovative Strategies Applicable In all Jurisdictions in North Carolina. It is rather safe to conclude that Pedro is well-versed in North Carolina's laws, so this was certainly not an honest mistake. In fact, we noticed this exact pattern for all of his North Carolina cases, but he also fraudulently used "Written Contract" in the other States which gave these a more favorable Statute Of Limitations. This is obviously how he enforces "creditor rights".
The amount he attempted to sue Thomas for was five times higher than the credit line on the (charged off) account, which Pedro claimed to own, and which supposedly entitled him to a huge payout. As evidence, Pedro presented a generic Citibank contract that was not signed; meaning that Thomas never agreed to it, and therefore, Pedro did not prove a that any business relationship even existed between Thomas and Citibank, or between Thomas and him.
Starting lawsuits is something that these companies often partake in, during their campaigns of economic terrorism. The Civil Summons (intent to begin a lawsuit notification) often tells the victims that they will not have to pay attorney or court fees if they just pay what is demanded within five days, awhile knowing that in most cases, the victim does not have the money. They also neglect mentioning that there is absolutely no legal requirement for the receiver to pay; merely because a court-certified demand has been issued. Although, if it is indeed a valid debt, then it is wise to pay it off immediately, to avoid extra fees. These legal terrorism tactics are used because the predators are afraid that their victims, if given adequate time, will research into the law, or get their own representation; at which point the plaintiffs are much more likely to lose. Their advantage lies in the fact that the ordinary citizen, who is in debt, does not have the money immediately available to hire a lawyer, so he will panic, but remember; the Internet is cheap. Here is what Pedro sent to us first. The following civil summons from Pedro includes all of the tricks mentioned above. Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge.
In the State of North Carolina, a valid debt must be paid in full within 5 days of receiving one of these legal demands, in order to avoid all legal and court fees. Pedro made certain this was delivered to Thomas late on a Friday afternoon, with the intent of panicking him, and to eliminate 3 of the 5 days he is allotted, by law, to deal with the situation. Undoubtedly, it was also meant to prevent Thomas from getting effective legal counsel before the people of Sessoms & Rogers could 'work' him.
If there was only one rule regarding defending yourself in a lawsuit, it would be never speak to the enemy over the phone. The Internet is full of people complaining that they were manipulated into making bogus admissions. In almost all cases, the conversation was recorded, and later used against them. You have nothing to gain from speaking to them. Respond only in writing, and file copies of all your correspondences with your courthouse. Do not even say "no comment" to them; lest they record the word "no", and edit it into a conversation that never occurred. Just hang up. Click on the image to view Thomas' official written response, which asked the court to dismiss Pedro's case.
Hopefully this will be useful to our readers, in case they ever find themselves in a similar situation. Any lawyers reading will probably notice that our response was somewhat unorthodox, as we were unusually candid; but we followed most of the standards. Notice the capitalization of certain words, and the layout. Sadly, these are deemed as critical by most courts, and ignoring these literary 'standards' could lose your case.
After this, we were sent a 'Request For Admissions' from Pedro, which was a questionnaire. The whole thing was really a trick to get Thomas to claim that he was at fault, and indebted to Pedro's firm, Sessoms & Rogers. For instance, one of the questions was:
"Please list all payments made by you on this account since its opening , showing the amounts and dates of each and every such payment. If you will do so without the necessity of a Motion To Produce, please attach copies thereof (both front and back of all checks) to your answer to this interrogatory."
Do not be fooled. The burden of proof does not lay on you, as it is the job of the plaintiff to prove that you are guilty. It is not your job to prove that you are innocent. It is the very basis that this justice system was built on. Pedro was obviously trying to frighten Thomas, by implying that he could legally make such demands upon him, and it was furthermore his attempt to terrorize Thomas into believing that it would be too tedious and expensive to defend himself; since Thomas would supposedly need to procure and pay for the records of hundreds of cleared checks. Thomas said no. In fact, Thomas completely ignored the entire questionnaire, and then did not hear from Pedro Zabala, Jr. again for months.
This month (June 2009), we were notified of a court hearing, since Pedro had filed a Motion for Summary Judgment against Thomas. These are a way for one side to avoid a trial, but Thomas had already specifically requested of the court a trial by jury, which undoubtedly made Pedro a very unhappy man. A person is supposed to file a 'Motion For Summary Judgment' only if they believe that there is so much evidence on their side that there is no need for a trial. Corrupt people like Pedro, who have discovered ways to subvert the system, actually use these 'Motions' to bypass the right of a trial by jury, whenever they feel that they have no chance of winning in a jury trial, as it was in Thomas' case. With lawyers like Pedro, these legal motions have become a way for unscrupulous lawyers to bypass America's Bill of Rights, which mandates a citizen's right to a trial by an impartial local jury of peers . Of course, Sessoms and Rogers was also ignoring the fact that Thomas had already presented an Absolute Defense: The Statute of Limitations.
In another dirty trick, Pedro had waited until the week of school ending to file his 'Motion For Summary Judgment' against Thomas, and against an untold number of other victims. The plan was to hit people when they would most likely be vacationing, so that they would be denied their legal right to have representation in court. The court date is only 10 days after the notification of these 'motions', and Pedro knew that many people would be on vacation for 2 weeks (or more). Pedro knew, as do we, that when a defendant fails to appear in such cases, it usually produces a default victory for the plaintiffs. This means that there will be a horrific surprise awaiting many returning vacationers this month, all of which were denied their legal rights through trickery.
Upon going to court, the motion against Thomas was "Summarily Dismissed", and the judge told Sessoms & Rogers that it needed to prove that the Statute of Limitations had not run out. We are confident that we will not hear from them again, because they were ordered to produce evidence that they cannot possibly have. If they do manage to obtain such evidence, then we will know that they have branched out into forgery too.
In one final parting insult, the people from Sessoms & Rogers did not visit the court themselves. For their 'Summary Judgments', they rented local attorneys to represent them. They did not have the honor, courage, or decency to face the people whom they had made accusations of, and those people who they had been working so feverishly to ruin for their own profit. Perhaps they were afraid for their personal safety, and they probably had good reason to be.
You know that we live in terrible times when everyday people are intimidated into paying debts that they do not need to pay, whilst they struggle to buy toys for their child's birthday, or hold onto their homes, as they are preyed upon by elitist classes of predatory bankers and lawyers.
Are You A Victim?
Despite all the legal posturing, the laws are in place to protect the citizens from predators.