Feds investigate Charlotte company for threats, phony debt collections

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte-area debt collection company is under investigation for allegedly making up debts and threatening people, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court.

The forfeiture complaint accuses Berkeley Hughes and Associates LLC of being involved in a fraud scheme between 2011 and 2015. The document alleges Cedric Demon Clark and other unnamed employees were involved in the scheme.

According to prosecutors, Berkeley maintained a website falsely indicating it employed ethical practices. Prosecutors accuse employees of inflating debts as much as 500 percent, collecting debts already paid and representing themselves as law enforcement agents.

Documents allege the employees threatened debtors to make payments.

"I knew that it wasn't real. I didn't take out a payday loan in 2010," said one man who filed complaints with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office regarding the company.

The man, who asked not to be identified, said the callers contacted his family members and collected information about extended family.

"They talked about the color of the car parked in the driveway. What the neighbors were driving," the man said.

Berkeley has been on the Better Business Bureau's radar for months. The BBB office in Charlotte recently put the business on its Dirty Dozen list with an "F" ranking.

"We were getting thousands of calls about this company which just showed the volume of calls they were making," said Tom Bartholomy, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Southern Piedmont.

Bartholomy said the complaints dropped off after the FBI raided the business in May. However, in recent weeks the complaints continued.

"We're going what, they're still active?" Bartholomy said.

Eyewitness News went by a home listed for Clark that the FBI raided in May. No one answered the door.

Calls and emails to the business were not immediately returned. The businesses phone went immediately to voicemail but the mailbox was full.

Channel 9 checked but could not find any criminal charges filed against Clark in the matter.

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