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Federal Authorities In N.Y. Charge 7 In Georgia-Based Debt Collection Scam

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) - Federal authorities in New York say they've brought criminal charges against seven people in a debt collection scam run out of Georgia.

Prosecutors described how the Atlanta-based company bullied people in all 50 states from 2009 through last April.

They say the company, Williams Scott and Associates, threatened arrests to collect more than $4 million from over 6,000 victims, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported.

Federal Authorities In N.Y. Charge 7 In Georgia-Based Debt Collection Scam

The criminal complaint said victims were told they would be arrested if they did not call back or pay specified amounts immediately. It also said debt collection business employees sometimes claimed they worked for, or were in contact with, the Justice Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and sheriffs' departments.

Caller: "I'm going to have them send you out an email. You either rectify it or you don't. That's the bottom line. And if you don't, just know that Los Angeles County will have you issued with a warrant for your arrest."

Victim: "So you can't -- I mean aren't you supposed to give me some type of customer service, too, and try to talk to me before?"

Caller: "Ma'am, ma'am."

Victim: " … and let me know what … ."

Caller: "No, ma'am."

Victim: " … this is about?"

Caller: "No, ma'am. No, ma'am. You're going around getting loans, not paying it back. Customer service? Ma'am, you're on the way to jail."

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reported, people in New York City, the Bronx and Westchester County fell victim to the scam.

"The caller may be a fake if he or she is seeking payment on a debt you don't recognize ... refuses to give you a mailing address or telephone number, asks for your personal or sensitive financial information or tries to scare you into paying the debt," said Bill Efron, director of the Federal Trade Commission's Northeast Region.

The seven suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, Gainer reported.

"Americans who may owe a debt should be free from terrorizing, extortionate and deceptive efforts to collect them," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Tuesday. "We don't allow the mob to do it and we don't allow so-called debt collection agencies to do it either."

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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