The state attorney general has ordered two Buffalo debt collectors shut down for deceptive practices.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Monday that he has ordered International Arbitration Services and Hearshe Kemp to close after investigators determined that the firms had lied about their credentials to intimidate consumers and avoid state oversight. The companies were also fined $10,000 apiece.
International Arbitration, which was located at 1839 Seneca St., closed late last fall, and Hearshe Kemp, 11 Summer St., must close by March 15.
“These companies willfully represented their experience and practices in a deliberate effort to intimidate consumers struggling to pay their debts,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The use of such deceptive tactics is unacceptable.”
The investigations, which began last fall, were prompted by complaints to the state Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
The investigation into International Arbitration Services found that the company had lied or exaggerated its relationship with judges and legal experts, its having locations in Toronto and Chicago, the year of its founding, and its having a staff of 2,000 specialists and former judges, along with offices in all 50 states. The probe showed none of that to be true.
The company, which collected old debt, actually began in 2011 and had only one office, which was in Buffalo. It didn’t have such a staff, and its website included fake photos of people who were identified as corporate officers. The company’s unscrupulous practices were done to intimidate consumers and to evade legal authorities, the investigation revealed.
The company closed its doors shortly after receiving a subpoena from the Attorney General’s Office.
In a separate investigation, it found that Hearshe Kemp committed similar offenses, including misrepresenting its credentials on its website. The investigation found that the site contained false information, such as the company having a relationship with debt-collection attorneys and claims that it had successfully litigated difficult debt cases. It also corresponded with consumers through letters that listed an incorrect amount of debt owed, while threatening them with lawsuits and civil and criminal prosecutions.
In addition to the $10,000 penalty, co-owners Carlos Day and Thomas Trigilio are permanently banned from working or operating a debt-collection business in the state.