A U.S. Army veteran claims that a debt collection agency broke the law by garnishing the wages of his wife and insulted him by telling him, "you should have died.”
Michael Collier, a veteran left 100 percent disabled after sustaining severe spinal and head trauma, makes those allegations in a recent lawsuit filed against Gurstel Chargo, a debt-collection agency with offices in Minnesota, Arizona, and Iowa.
(SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE)
Despite federal law stating that disability benefits cannot be garnished, Gurstel had Kim Collier's credit union freeze her account, then seized $6,000 over a defaulted student loan Michael that hadn't been able to keep making payments on. According to Courthouse News, an attorney representing Gurstel later acknowledged in court the funds were exempt and would be returned "Right away."
But immediately after the hearing, knowing the couple didn't have enough money for legal representation, that same lawyer allegedly told Michael he'd need to file a lawsuit if he ever wanted to get his money back, reports RT.
In a subsequent phone conversation, according to the suit, an unidentified employee at Gurstel told the vet:
"F--- you! Pay us your money! You can't afford an attorney. You owe us. I hope your wife divorces your a--. If you would have served our country better you would not be a disabled veteran living off social security while the rest of us honest Americans work our a-- off. Too bad; you should have died."
Gurstel responded to the suit Monday, stating the allegations, if true, "are contrary to the policies, practices, and values" of the firm. They further promised "immediate corrective and disciplinary action" if the allegations prove to be true.
Gawker notes that, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it's illegal for a collections agency to use abusive or harassing language in its attempts to collect on a debt.
UPDATE: August 9, 2013 -- Per a release from Gurstel Chargo, Collier's lawsuit has been voluntarily dismissed. In a prepared statement, Todd Gurstel, the firm's CEO, labeled the lawsuit "false and frivolous," and based on "outrageous allegations."
A copy of the dismissal paperwork, dated July 24, 2013, notes "the telephone call [that was] ... the central subject of this lawsuit was not made by Gurstel Chargo, any employee or affiliate of Gurstel Chargo, or anyone acting on behalf of Gurstel Chargo." The plaintiffs received nothing as a result of the suit.