Debt Threat

WSVN — Two companies have done business together for years, and then suddenly insults were flying — not at each other, but by a collection agency that stepped in. What is going on, what was said? Tonight, Patrick Fraser brings us the Debt Threat.

Miguel Castillo is a general contractor.

Miguel Castillo, ARC Contractors: “And I built custom homes, and I built commercial properties. I love it. I’ve been doing this now for almost 30 years.”

Carlos Medina is a sub-contractor whose company has installed roofs for Miguel.

Carlos Medina, Top Seal Services Corp.: “We love it. It’s not the easiest job. We do something that nobody else likes to do.”

Recently, Carlos finished a very nice $40,000 roof for Miguel.

Miguel Castillo: “It was time for him to get paid, and we played phone tag for a couple of weeks. We were busy, and it happens sometimes.”

Then Miguel got a phone call from a man claiming to work for a law firm that was also a collection agency.

Miguel Castillo: “They said they were hired by this roofing company to collect the debt.”

Miguel thought it was strange that Carlos would call a collection agency, but since they were playing phone tag he thought, “Oh, well” and gave the collection agency his checking account and routing numbers and then he got a call from Carlos.

Miguel Castillo: “Well, your lawyer already called me. I don’t understand what you are talking about. I already settled. ‘I’ve never hired a lawyer.'”

Carlos said a collection agency had called his roofing company asking if they had any outstanding bills due. He said, yes, from Miguel’s company, but he didn’t need their help for that, so he called the collection agency…

Carlos Medina: “I said, ‘Stop, don’t do anything more. We never authorized you to do anything to the customer. Please stop doing it.'”

The response from the collection agency?

Carlos Medina: “I was getting emails, phone calls insulting us, calling us pigs, any name on the book you can imagine.”

Miguel stopped payment on the check he had released to the collection agency, called London, Reese and Thomas, Inc., and then he started getting nasty messages.

Miguel Castillo: “Then, I get a bunch of text messages, threatening, insulting text messages and also voicemails calling me horrific things, ‘dirty, dead beat, ‘spic.'”

Miguel says the collection agency then used his routing number and checking account info to create more checks.

Miguel Castillo: “And they put a check for $5,000, a fraudulent check because it was one made up, and then they did another one for $7,500, which we caught. Then we had to close the bank account.”

Miguel says after he closed the bank account, more insults poured in.

Voice mails: “We are suing you for three times the amount, but I’m prosecuting because it’s a felony, and you are going to go to jail too unless you kick out 15-grand to London, Reese and Thomas for three times the amount of the check.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, collection agencies cannot harass, threaten violence, use obscene language and falsely claim to be lawyers or claim you have committed a crime. Carlos and Miguel said the agency did all that.

Carlos Medina: “Our next step is the State Attorney’s Office. Has to be a crime!”

Miami-Dade Police are now investigating the London, Reese and Thomas, Inc. collection agency for allegedly creating those checks from Miguel’s account.

A spokesperson added, “The Economic Crimes Bureau has assigned an investigator to look into the matter. As in all of our cases, we will be working closely with the State Attorney’s Office.”

Scott London, who says he’s with the collection agency, has an office in Margate. We stopped by. He wouldn’t come out..

Then our producer, Ambar Rodriguez started receiving texts saying it was the contractors who scammed him out of his fee.

When we asked for proof he wrote, “Are you stupid. Go get a job at La Granja … that’s where u belong…”

Miguel and Carlos have gotten similar insults from the collection agency.

Carlos Medina: “He called me a ‘spic, but I’m a ‘spic that speaks English.”

As police investigate, the builders feel lucky they didn’t get taken, but they aren’t surprised someone tried.

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