Boston Herald: Alleged Debt Collection Abuse

Couple: Collector is “Abusive”

By Thomas Grillo, January 16, 2009

When Mark Nemeskal suffered a stroke six years ago, the newspaper truck driver and part-time tenor’s lost income put his family in a huge financial hole.

“Like many families, we live paycheck to paycheck,” said Nemeskal’s wife, Lisa. “When Mark was out of work for two months that really put us behind.”

Without Mark’s income, the North Shore couple used their Sears MasterCard to pay for expenses and ran up a $12,000 balance. When they missed a payment, the interest rate soared to 29 percent.

Last year, the obligation swelled to $14,259 and Sears sold the debt to Leading Edge Recovery Solutions, a third-party debt collector.

That’s when a flood of abusive telephone calls began from Leading Edge, according to a lawsuit filed Jan. 6 in U.S. District Court.

The complaint alleges that the Chicago-based firm used heavy-handed tactics and violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by making repeated telephone calls to the couple using profane language, threatening to seize their home and car and contacting a neighbor and relative about the debt. The suit seeks $12,000 in damages.

“We’re emotional wrecks from the stress,” said Lisa Nemeskal. “We’re not slouches. We work multiple jobs, and it’s not fair that a company can harass you when you’re doing the best you can to repay the money. They’ve been ruthless.”

Daniel Beam, Leading Edge’s senior business analyst, declined to discuss the case.

In an e-mail, he said, “We make every good faith effort to meet compliance and other legal obligations. Leading Edge has been in contact with Mr. Nemeskal’s lawyer and is confident that a resolution of the dispute will be finalized shortly.”

Since 2006, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has received 15 complaints about Leading Edge. A spokeswoman would not confirm or deny whether the office is investigating the company.

Today, the Nemeskals – Mark, a Boston Globe truck driver, and Lisa, a nurse – are struggling to get their financial house in order. They are trying to keep their mortgage payment and other credit card debt current, and foot tuition bills for their two sons, one in college and the other in a special-needs school.

Sergei Lemberg, the Nemeskals’ attorney, said he’s seen a sharp rise in legal actions against debt collectors. “It’s crazy. As the economy gets worse, debt collectors get more desperate,” he said.

Original story: At the Boston Herald

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