CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A debt collector is accused of writing deceptive notices, hiring police officers to deliver them and using aggressive tactics to threaten people struggling to pay their bills.
State Attorney General Josh Stein said the operation is being illegally run out of Charlotte.
Stein is suing Gordon Engle and his companies and, earlier, got a temporary restraining order against them.
Now, Stein won a preliminary injunction, which means Engle can't collect debts until the case is resolved.
Stein said Aarons Furniture rental store sold customer debt and Engle bought it.
Engle tried to collect on it, which is legal, Stein said.
"We have no problem with people out there collecting on debts that comply with the law," Stein said.
Stein said Engle sent the consumers letters, saying they broke the law and the letters looked like official court papers, but the documents were fabricated.
The attorney general said Engle had private police officers deliver some of the documents.
Stein said the debt collectors threatened to have some people arrested.
The attorney general also said Engle's companies filed hundreds of criminal complaints in court, so courts would issue real criminal summonses against customers.
"Abusing the criminal process in order to collect a civil debt is absolutely unacceptable," Stein said.
Debt collectors in North Carolina have to be registered with the state and they need a permit to collect money.
Stein said Engle had three companies, all registered in Texas: Turtle Creek Assets, Turtle Creek Rentals, and Royal Park Holdings.
"All of that's illegal,” Stein said. “That's why we've gone to court, and the court has agreed that while the litigation's going on to shut them down."
Engle was going to discuss the case with Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke on camera Wednesday, but he changed his mind.
He said his lawyer told him not to talk about the lawsuit.
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