Vile Voice Mails Cost Agency $1.5 Million
A fed-up Texas man has turned the tables on a collections agency.
Advanced Call Center Technologies, usually in the business of collecting money for its clients, now finds itself $1.5 million in debt to Allen Jones. A Dallas County court awarded him the hefty judgment after a jury found the agency barraged Jones with harassing and racially charged phone calls.
ACT debt collectors confessed to logging eight expletive-filled calls to Jones, of Lewisville, Texas, in August 2007, many peppered with the "n-word." Jones, 26, saved the vulgar voice mails as evidence.
"This is your motherf------ wake-up call you little lazy a-- b----," a collector said in one early-morning message obtained by Dallas/Fort Worth's WFAA-TV. "Get your motherf------ n----r a-- up and go pick some motherf------ cotton fields."
The calls from the Pennsylvania-based company came as early as 6:30 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m., seeking to collect a $200 debt from Jones.
He said he told ACT in their first communication that he had already paid the bill.
"This shouldn't be tolerated," Jones told WFAA. "Nobody should have to experience what I had to experience."
A jury agreed with Jones, finding that ACT violated debt collection ethical guidelines. Jones was awarded $1.5 million in punitive damages, $143,000 in attorney's fees and $50,000 in mental anguish, one of the largest rewards of its kind.
One of Jones' attorneys, Dean Malone, said the reward was fair punishment for "the most egregious collection case" he's ever seen.
"It was just significant, over-the-top harassment," he told ABC News. "I've handled hundreds of these cases over the years. This is by far the worst I've ever seen."
A lawyer for ACT told ABC that the language used in the calls was "indefensible" and said the calls "must have been in some sort of personal attack unrelated to the business."
George Vignola, a collection expert and president of Commercial Collection Consultants, a debt collection firm based in Massapequa, N.Y., told AOL News he was shocked after listening to the audio of the voice mails.
"As an agency owner, I couldn't believe the vulgarity. That's what gives our industry a bad name," Vignola said. "What could you possibly hope to achieve by using profanity? The only thing you're going to get is a dial tone."