Thursday, June 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Debt Collectors Busted|in New York

MANHATTAN (CN) - A Georgia debt-buyer and -collector coerced 6,000 people into paying it more than $4.1 million through "a host of lies," New York's federal attorney said Tuesday.

New York City's federal attorney charged Norcross-based Williams, Scott & Associates and six of its employees with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

In a statement announcing the indictment, the U.S. attorney said that the defendants "contacted consumers whose debt WSA had purchased, and tried to trick and coerce them into making payments to WSA by making false threats and telling a host of lies. Among those lies were that WSA was part of a federal task force and that warrants would be issued for the consumers' arrests if they failed to make immediate payment to WSA. In total, WSA obtained more than $4.1 million from its victims."

All six individual defendants were arrested Tuesday morning.

They are: John Todd Williams, aka Joe Steele; Benita Cannedy aka Sharon Wright; Rudy James aka Ricky Kelly aka Robert French; Arthur Cook aka Ace Rogers; Christopher Lenyszyn aka Dan Miller; Clark Smith aka Mr. Cline; and Titus McDowell.

The Manhattan U.S. attorney said in a statement that the defendants, "third-party debt collectors acting under the guise of government authority, illegally and repeatedly threatened arrest, prosecution, and prison for countless Americans."

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the defendants worked on "the seedy side of debt collection."

The Manhattan FBI agent in charge called them "nothing more than bullies with badges."

The U.S. Attorney's Office said that the defendants victimized people in all 50 states.


Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.