Action 9

Action 9 confronts local man behind debt collection scheme

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A local man tricked thousands of Americans out of roughly $6 million total, federal prosecutors said.

Action 9 has followed the case for nearly two years.  Now, for the first time, Action 9 spoke on-camera with an alleged victim and caught up with the defendant Cedric Clark in person.

[PAST COVERAGE: Feds investigate Charlotte company for threats, phony debt collections]

Clark's team used the business name Berkeley Hughes and Associates (BHA).

Prosecutors said BHA coerced people to pay money even when they didn't owe anything, harassed family members, threatened to arrest people and posed as law firms or even law enforcement.  Prosecutors said BHA even played a police scanner in the background of some calls.

BHA followed a written script, complete with a strategic pause and phrases like "charges against you" and "right to pursue you,” according to prosecutors. They said the script was designed to scare people and that the callers would even put the people on hold and pretend to consult a lawyer during that pause.

Cynthia Martin said BHA called her, told her she owed $300 -- which she did -- and demanded she pay.

"[They were] real hateful. They threatened to take me to court if I didn't pay. That I could have jail time if I didn't pay," Martin said.

She said she fell for it and didn't realize BHA was running a scheme until later, when a real debt collection agency called her.

"I was livid," she said.

She doesn't know why BHA picked her.

"They need to do as much time as possible," Martin said.

She filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and said the FBI contacted her to interview her as part of its investigation.

Prosecutors believe Clark spent hundreds of thousands of dollars the money BHA collected on a Charlotte condo and a 2006 Sea Ray 320 Sundancer boat.  He has a picture of one on his Facebook page.

Clark pleaded guilty in December to money laundering and engaging in a fraudulent debt collection conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

(Click PLAY to watch Jason Stoogenke confront Cedric Clark)

“Do you have anything to say to all the victims?” Jason asked Clark.

“No, sir,” Clark answered.

“Nationally?” Jason questioned.

“No, sir,” Clark said.

“I mean, it’s a lot of money, multi-million dollar case. Any thoughts before sentencing?” Jason asked.

“No, sir. Thank you, though,” Clark answered.

He faces up to 10 years in prison for the first charge and up to five years for the second.  The court can set a sentencing date any day now.

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