Cuomo sues over debt-collection practices

Keith Loria Jun. 1, 2010, 2:23pm


BUFFALO, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he has filed a lawsuit against the owner of several debt collection companies for allegedly harassing and threatening consumers.

Named in the suit were Frank Santiago, the owner and operator of Northern Asset Management LLC and Eastern Asset Management LLC. Santiago allegedly had his employees lie and abuse those they called in order to force them to pay money they owed.

The suit also claims that the companies made illegal calls to the families and employers of people they attempted to collect money from.

"There are clear laws that say how a debt collection company can do business, and we allege that this debt collector and his companies broke those laws," Cuomo said.

"Threats, intimidation, obscene language and overt harassment are just some of the day-to-day business practices that were employed by this operation. Their actions must come to an end."

Cuomo says Santiago changed the name of his company to avoid any fines and to stay away from mounting lawsuits.

Some consumers complained about being called 10-15 times a day and having their friends and neighbors bothered as well.

Santiago's original company, Ethical Asset, closed following numerous complaints, Cuomo said. He almost immediately opened Eastern Asset to take its place. The latter shut down in December 2009, with Santiago then beginning operation of Northern Asset, which is still active.

Cuomo filed suit in a similar case in May against Williamsville-based attorney John P. Nicolia after an investigation determined that he collected $141,000 in fees for allowing Santiago's companies to threaten consumers across the country using the lawyer's name when Nicolia wasn't involved in providing legal services at all.

In that case, it is alleged Santiago's collectors falsely stated that the consumers had lawsuits filed against them and used Nicolia's name to scare them.

It's alleged that the companies also misrepresented the specifics of the alleged debts, including overstating the amount owed, and that they used obscene, abusive, threatening and racist language in the calls.

The lawsuit seeks to bar Santiago and his affiliated businesses from the debt collection industry in New York and requires him to pay significant penalties, costs and fees for the multiple violations of law.

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