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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Debt Collectors Leave Fingerprints at the Scene of the Crime

My wife and I filed a lawsuit in July 2008 alleging multiple violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) associated with a debt we allegedly owed to American Express.

Strange events started happening on my wife's job at Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation in June 2009, just as discovery issues began to heat up in our lawsuit. The strangeness reached a head on September 25 when my wife--we call her Mrs. Schnauzer (MS) here--was fired under mysterious circumstances.

Could someone connected to the defendants in our case--NCO and Ingram & Associates--have caused my wife to be cheated out of her job? Have things gotten so bad in our "justice system" that someone can lose her job simply for trying to seek redress in court? Did someone knowingly violate my wife's civil rights under 42 U.S. Code 1985 (2), which specifically prohibits such actions?

We've been studying fingerprints left at the scene of the crime, and the answers to those questions appear to be yes.

Actually, the circumstances surrounding MS's termination are not all that mysterious. Lawyers for NCO and Ingram & Associates had tried all kinds of threats in an effort to get us to drop the lawsuit. But it became clear in mid September that those threats weren't going to work, and defendants were going to have to turn over information in discovery.

That's when my wife's supervisor at Infinity gave her a written warning for being "tardy," even though he had asked her some three months earlier to move her start time from 9 to 9:30 a.m. in order to help better serve California customers. She had always arrived well in advance of the 9:30 start time, and her supervisor had never given her oral notice of a tardiness problem, as required by the company handbook.

My wife disputed the written warning, indicating that she was going to take the matter to human resources. Her supervisor then said he was "fine," stating that he had left the document in his drawer. In other words, he indicated that there was no official warning after all, and everything was fine. A few days later, MS was fired.

Infinity's failure to follow its own policies regarding alleged tardiness indicate the grounds for my wife's termination were bogus. In fact, the company's incompetence in the whole matter is almost laughable.

The written warning also charged that MS had taken several unscheduled absences on Mondays, hinting that she was abusing sick leave. In fact, all of those days were scheduled and approved vacation days, and the company eventually admitted in writing that the charge was baseless. But it upheld my wife's termination anyway!

What fingerprints point to debt collectors in the cheat job my wife experienced at work? Let's consider just a few:

* We had long been concerned that someone connected to our various legal issues might try to cheat MS out of her job. For that reason, we had been unusually secretive about her place of employment; her own sister did not know where she worked. But one of the first questions we had to answer in discovery for the lawsuit was a simple one: Where do you work? We were reluctant at first to answer the question, but we figured the court would frown on delay over such a basic question. So we answered it. That meant the defendants, and their lawyers, were pretty much the only people outside our household who knew where my wife worked.

* NCO is represented in our case by Lloyd Gray & Whitehead, a Birmingham law firm with strong connections to Infinity Property & Casualty. How strong are the connections? Here is just one example: Erin E. May, an attorney in corporate litigation at Infinity Property & Casualty, used to work at Lloyd Gray & Whitehead. (See document below.)

* Erin May apparently is sensitive about her ties to Lloyd Gray & Whitehead--at least when it comes to our case. MS raised the issue in a deposition a few weeks back. Consider this exchange, taken from the transcript, with Wayne Morse, attorney for Ingram & Associates:

Q: Okay. But you think there was pressure on you in Infinity because Erin May is a former associate at Lloyd Gray & Whitehead. Is that . . .

A: I think . . . well, according to her Facebook page, she's still close friends with someone that works there, I don't recall the name, somebody.

We had checked Erin May's Facebook page several times, and it appeared to be quite active, with several hundred friends. When we went back to check it after the deposition, it was gone. It's still gone, as I write this post.

Does that mean Erin May caused my wife to be fired at Infinity? Nope. But it does mean there are ties between the defendants in our lawsuit and my wife's former employer. And it means someone isn't real anxious to have those ties known.

We have more information about connections between the defendants and Infinity Property & Casualty. But for now, let's close with this document--Erin May's profile from LinkedIn. I found it originally by doing a simple Google search, and it was available to the public. It now appears to be available only to LinkedIn members. Again, someone appears to be sensitive about public documents that show connections between Infinity and Lloyd Gray & Whitehead:

Erin May--LinkedIn


Robby Scott Hill said...

If your employer asks you to edit or remove your Facebook page because of who your friends are or because of something that is a fact, that says something about your employer. You might want to think long and hard about why you are still working there and why you continue to support their goals and objectives.

Robby Scott Hill said...

As a former debt collector, I can tell you that one of the nasty little secrets of the industry is the sharing of attorney fees and payment of bounties to legal assistants & investigators.

Let's suppose I am a debtor working at a company like Infinity. The law firm representing the creditor calls over to Infinity's corporate law office and Infinity's General Counsel tells them that I own a big home in Vestavia Hills and have 10 grand in a savings account because my supervisor just gave me a bonus. So, The General Counsel at Infinity cuts a deal with the attorneys at the collection firm. The General Counsel at my own employer has me fired so the debt collectors can get my savings account and my home to satisfy the debt. The General Counsel who had me fired gets a kickback in the form of $2000 cash and he is invited to make an offer on my home when it goes up for auction. My home may be worth $300k, but the bastards will sell it to him for much less as a thank you for setting me up. Then, he can go out and flip it at full market price and make a nice profit for himself if he doesn't want to live in it. That's how debt collectors purchase loyalty and buy friends.

legalschnauzer said...

Wow, Rob, very interesting. Thanks for the insight. Something ugly happened with Carol's job, and I'm going to find out what it is.

I'm also starting to think my termination at UAB might have been tied to debt collectors. More on that in a future post.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hill - Your comments are very disturbing to me. I guess mainly because I believe you. If you have facts and proof then why don't you file a bar complaint against all of the attorneys in the firm? I'm posting "anonymous" only because I'm in litigation over alleged debts & they want my home to be sold by the clerk of court. My hands are tied until I can get depos under oath of plaintiff.

Anonymous said...

The Facebook page may still exist, the user may have simply set their privacy settings to block you from seeing it from your Facebook account. Often the continuing existence of the account you're not supposed to see anymore can be verified through Google. If one of that person's friends is willing to send you screenshots, you would be able to see anything you wanted. If the target is free with her friending, you could have one of your friends fried her, then you could peruse her info at will. I'm just sayin'...