A West Virginia woman who was repeatedly harassed on the phone over her son's supposed credit-card debt was recently awarded a $10 million judgment in court, but Diana Mey may never see a penny of it because the defendant, a Santa Ana-based collection agency, simply walked away from the case.
The company is RFA, which was initially represented in court by the apparently synonymous Global AG LLC. There are online listings for RFA/Reliant Financial Associates and Global AG LLC of Wyoming that share the same address: 501 N. Golden Circle Drive, Suite 210, Santa Ana, CA 92705.
Calls by the Weekly today to the listed numbers for those companies were not returned. Some who have complained about them online say the "AG" after Global stands for "Attorney Group" (and is not to be confused with Global Ag LLC, where the "Ag" is short for "Agriculture").
An Ohio County circuit judge awarded the $10 mil in damages after finding RFA/Global AG LLC used "spoofing" tactics against Mey, reports Wheeling, West Virginia's News-Register. You can be spoofed via an application that makes it appear on your caller ID that the call is coming from somewhere else.
Mey first received a call on May 27, 2010, from a woman about a debt her son supposedly owed. The person on the phone shared information about Mey's home, something that alarmed her because she had just used it as collateral for a loan to finance her newly opened coffee shop.
She called a number the woman gave for further instructions and received an "evasive" response and the names of several companies. Her son, who knew nothing about owing any debt, called and was provided a credit card name he did not recognize. Using a credit reporting service, he discovered his records had been accessed by RFA of Santa Ana--the same day his mother received the first call.
The son sent RFA a letter about being mistaken about the debt and asked that the company stop calling his mother. Mey then started getting several calls on her cell phone on June 13, 2010, from what the caller ID identified as the Ohio County Sheriff's Department. She contacted the sheriff's department twice thinking the calls were about security concerns with her coffee shop, but she was informed each time that no one at the department had tried to contact her.
Three days later, Mey received another call her caller ID again stated was from the sheriff's department, but this time an unidentified man on the line was "very vile and very vulgar," she later said. And threatening. Her attorney would call it a "sexual assault."
Mey began recording the call, which is allowed under West Virginia law. Afterward, she dialed 9-1-1 to report that someone at the sheriff's department had threatened her. Deputies came to her home and informed her she had likely been "spoofed."
Frightened and home alone, Mey called for her son to come spend the night and went to bed with a gun. She followed up by performing an Internet search of the phone number she was originally instructed to call--and discovered there were several complaints about it from all over the country. (See more on the next page.) She then filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, spoke with the U.S. district attorney and filed the suit that led Judge Martin Gaughan to award her $10 million in damages.
But Mey's attorney says that while Global AG LLC responded to the initial lawsuit--and even discussed filing for an extension--the company ultimately ignored a court summons. The News-Register reports the chairs designated for defense counsel sat empty in the courtroom as Gaughan ruled for Mey.
Here is a sampling of comments left by others about Global AG on a website that tracks unknown callers:
- Aggravated, 20 Oct 2009: These people are calling my place of employment and not identifying themselves telling me that I have a case no. and they are trying to serve me with court papers. I refused to talk to them or give them any information and they threatened to serve me on my job. They are very rude and they are trying to use scare tactics. I want this to stop and these people to stop harrassing others. If a debt is owed, there is a way of going about collecting it professionally and without harassing calls at your workplace!
- None, 25 Nov 2009: They called me a few times, and threatened an arrest warrant would be issued. A few weeks later someone called from our local sheriff's dept and said to call global ag right away or a warrant will be issued. I called the number on my ID back and sure enough it was the sherriff's department. Funny thing the person who said they were the police would not give their name, they just told me to call the collection agent. Seems fishy!
- LegalLady, 12 Mar 2010: Get wise, this was not the Sheriff's Department. By law all deputies must identify themselves when they are asked or when they answer the phone. They have set up a number which will respond "Sheriff's Department" Get wise do not let them upset you. They cannot arrest you for a civil claim. A debt (you owe money to someone) is a civil claim, not a criminal action. The only type of debt that is a criminal action would be a "nsf check" returned by your bank.
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- WhatIsThis, 29 Dec 2009: I received a a call from this number, said her name was Hope Martin, and she said they have a legal matter that may be fraud, and that I may be hiding assets for my son, and they want all my financial information, and they are going to serve a summons on me to appear in court, that my son had tried to handle this debt on his own, but unfortunately had only made one payment...that he was going to be sued for fraud. They also called my father in law, who is 90 years old, and said they were going to serve him with a summons, that he may be hiding assets.
- DontGiveIn, 20 Jan 2010: Hope Martin called my 82 year old mother stating she is being sued for an old credit card from back in 2000. Told my mother she could settle but would have to pay $1,800.00 to avoid going to court and possible jail. My poor mother paid this on her credit card. I called her creidit card and explained what had happened, her credit card company put the money back on her account and said they would contact Global ag to let them know this was being disputed they also advised me to file a complain with the FTC which I did. We pulled my moms credit report and the debt they were calling about was less then $600 and had been paid to a collection company what they were looking at simply stated sold to another company and right below that the name was the company it was paid to which stated original paid and had the same account number you would think they would have picked up on that. They have no right to say they can send the police to pick you up if you dont pay them right away only a judge can issue an arrest warrant.
On the other side of the, uh, coin, there was this, from Feb. 19, 2010:
- WeCantBeStopped: What a waist [sic] of space. I will write a bunch of sh!t on here also. You can't stop us! We will always be just a phone call away and best of all it will be you who we will be calling because you can't and don't know how to pay your bills. Your dumb a$$ thinks that by writing a bunch of shit it will stop us from calling. You cant stop us! YOU ARE ALL DEADBEATS, WE WILL FIND YOU AND TAKE YOUR MONEY!!! We will make your mother cry. We will make your daughter fall in love. We will make your wife/husband wish they never married your poor a$$. Yes, you sorry pathetic peaces of shit there will never be anything you can do to stop us.