(CBS) -- A local family has been hit with huge fines by the Illinois Tollway. They say what the state agency is doing is worse than any loan shark or pay day loan scam. CBS 2's Dave Savini looks at how one family was ordered to pay one extraordinary bill.
"They want $27,000 for what I consider a clerical error they made back in June," Said northwest suburban resident Dan Usselmann.
Usselmann never thought the Illinois Tollway would turn his misfortune of having a debit card stolen into an even bigger financial nightmare. The Usselmann's already had a transponder when their debit card it was registered to was stolen. After the theft they attempted to update their tollway account with their new debit card information.
"So I called, I updated it on the phone and they said okay you're fine," recalled Laura Ussellmann.
But, the Usselmann's say tollway workers on the phone only updated one of their two accounts. Even though, the debit card was tied to both accounts. So, in the meantime, one of their vehicles kept racking up unpaid tolls. A tally of $210 worth of missed tolls skyrocketed to $27,331 once fines and late fees were assessed. That's a 12,000 percent increase from what they say they owed.
"It's absurd.... a loan sharks would be embarrassed about what the tollway is doing to the people of Illinois, " Dan Usselmann said.
What makes matters worse, the Usselmann's say the tollway was sending notices to an old address that they hadn't lived at in years. So, a year went by before they were actually notified of the problem.
"It's not like I'm a criminal, its not like I was doing it on purpose," added Laura Usselmann.
The Usselmann's argued with the tollway to pay the IPASS rate for missed tolls, but the tollway wanted the cash rate, which means the total of missed fines went from $210 to $381 dollars. The Usslemann's requested a hearing where they asked to pay the lesser amount, but they lost at the hearing.
"The minute they sent me out of that room is the minute they held me liable," Dan Usselmann said.
He said he asked if he could pay the $381 over several installments but the tollway said no and the fines started racking up.
"How am I supposed to come up with $27,000 in the 20-day time frame they give you," Dan Usselmann added.
In the end the Usselmann's believe the tollway is using predatory practices to get them to pay up.
"They are never wrong, they talk to you with such disrespect," Laura Usselmann said.
So, while raising three children and working two jobs the Usselmann's say they also have a full time job fighting the tollway which is threatening their credit and threatening to take Dan's license away if they don't pay.
"I am very frustrated. I think they are attempting to pick on the little guy and they are doing a good job it," concluded Dan Usselmann.
Since the 2 Investigators got involved the Tollway has wiped out the $27,000 bill and now just wants about $1,100 to back the collection agency off and settle the score. Tollway officials say the Usselmann's should have been offered a payment plan but say they have no record of them ever asking. The Usselmann's say the cashier refused to take partial payment and that's when all the extra fines started kicking in.
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