We have been following the story about a debt collector/law firm, Gurstel Chargo, and a disabled US Army Veteran. We wanted to ensure the story was accurate before we posted, so we waited until we received the court documents. We received the complaint today which was filed by Floyd Bybee, who is the attorney for the Disabled Veteran, Michael Collier, and his wife. Michael suffered spine and head injuries in the Army and was declared 100 percent disabled.
According to the complaint filed in the United States District Court of Arizona, Grustel Chargo, a debt collection agency, illegally garnished more than $6,000 from Michael’s wife’s savings account. Despite federal law stating that disability benefits cannot be garnished, Gurstel had Kim Collier’s credit union freeze her account, then seized $6,000 over a defaulted student loan Michael that hadn’t been able to keep making payments on.. The two went to court telling the judge that the monies were exempt from garnishment as they were disability payments, the judge agreed. The court asked the attorney for Grustel when they would return the money, he replied “Right Away”.
After the hearing, Michael asked the Grustel attorney when he would be receiving his money back. The lawyer told him he would need to get a lawyer to get his funds back.
Michael then contacted Grustel by phone, and was told he would need to sue in order to get the money back. During this conversation, after he told the assistant that the funds were exempt Veteran disability payments, the assistant told him “Fuck you! Pay us your money! You can’t afford an attorney. You owe us. I hope your wife divorces your ass. if you would have served our country better you would not be a disabled veteran living off social security while the rest of us honest Americans work our ass off. Too bad; you should have died!”
The Colliers seek actual damages, statutory damages, and punitive damages for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, conversion, privacy invasion, and malicious infliction of emotional distress.
The complaint filed with the Court is attached here. Collier-v-Gurstel-Chargo-Complaint (PDF)
Here is Grustel Chargo’s response to the law suit:
Statement of Gurstel Chargo October 15, 2012
We learned late last week of the lawsuit filed by Michael Andrew Collier and Kim Collier-Dingman. Gurstel Chargo takes the allegations made in the lawsuit very seriously and we have immediately launched an internal investigation to determine the facts. We are extremely disturbed by the allegations stated in the Complaint, as they are contrary to the policies, practices and values of our firm. We expect that all Gurstel Chargo employees fully comply with all state and federal laws, and we thoroughly train our employees to perform their job in a lawful and respectful manner. Under no circumstances does our firm tolerate the type of conduct alleged in the Complaint.
The Complaint states that the wrongful remarks were made during a telephone call. We have requested from the attorney that filed the Complaint the phone number of the phone that Mr. Collier was allegedly on, an approximate date on which the call occurred, whether the person who made the alleged wrongful comments was male or female, all in order to help us to get to the truth about what occurred. We have been informed by Mr. Collier’s attorney that he is unaware of any of this information. To date, we have discovered no information to substantiate the allegations, but our investigation continues. Should these allegations prove to be true, we will take immediate corrective and disciplinary action.
You can read their response on their website also Grustel Chargo Website
We will continue to follow this story and update you as we get the information.