Lowell Debt Collection Attorney Sued for Threatening Consumers With Arrest, Imprisonment
AG’s Office Obtained Court Order Against Him
WOBURN – A Lowell attorney has been barred from threatening consumers with arrest or imprisonment for nonpayment of small debts, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
AG Healey’s Office yesterday obtained a preliminary injunction in Middlesex Superior Court against Attorney Robert R. White and his law firm Levy & White.
“This attorney’s unlawful debt collection practices caused financial and emotional injury to consumers and deprived consumers of their right to a fair hearing,” said AG Healey. “With this injunction, he will no longer be able to abuse consumers and the court system.”
The preliminary injunction prevents White and his law firm from threatening consumers with arrest or imprisonment in violation of the Attorney General’s Debt Collection Regulations. It also prohibits White and his law firm from using the words “jail,” “imprisonment,” “incarceration,” “prison,” or “arrest” in any written materials or oral communications with consumers.
White has also been prohibited from providing consumers with inaccurate or incomplete information about their legal rights, or engaging in any other conduct that substantially interferes with the fair administration of the Small Claims Session of the Lowell District Court, where White primarily litigates.
White is a debt collection attorney and has filed nearly 2,000 cases in that court since 2012. The majority of cases brought by White are collection actions for medical ambulance services. Many of the consumers whom White sues are low-income and live in neighborhoods in and around Lowell. Some speak English as a second language, and many are dealing with significant medical issues.
This lawsuit follows an investigation by the AG’s Office that found that White routinely intimidated, harassed, and abused consumers when seeking to collect debts. It also found that White used baseless threats to coerce low-income consumers into burdensome repayments plans, even when they had income that was exempt from court-ordered collection.
In some cases, White threatened female consumers with going to Framingham State Prison if they did not pay him or his clients. In at least one other instance, White threatened a consumer with the loss of her driver’s license if she did not pay him.
Through the lawsuit, the AG’s Office seeks to permanently bar White and his law firm from filing or litigating collection actions in the Small Claims Session of Lowell District Court. The AG’s Office is also seeking restitution for consumers, civil penalties, and attorney’s fees.
AG Healey’s Office regularly receives consumer complaints about debt collection abuses and has taken legal action against a number of debt collection companies. In September 2016, the AG’s Office announced that Ditech Financial, LLC, a national mortgage servicer, paid $1.4 million and agreed to strengthen its policies over its alleged abusive debt collection practices that affected more than 5,000 borrower accounts in Massachusetts. In December 2015, AG Healey sued one of the largest debt collection law firms in Massachusetts, Lustig, Glaser, & Wilson, P.C., and its two owners, alleging that the firm repeatedly sued consumers for debts they did not owe or were inaccurate.
The AG’s Office is committed to combatting abusive debt collection practices. Consumers with questions or concerns about such practices can call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint with the office.
Consumer with inquiries about White’s case should contact the AG’s Consumer Protection Division at 617-963-2686.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Brendan Jarboe, Benjamin Golden and Samantha Shusterman of AG Healey’s Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from Paralegal Gabrielle Crossnoe and Investigators Kristen Salera and Colleen Frost, both of the AG’s Civil Investigations Division.