Families of troops in Iraq have enough fear and stress this holiday season without debt collectors adding illegal scare tactics. For allegedly harassing a soldier's family over unpaid bills, we're giving a dishonorable discharge to Associated Creditors Exchange, this week's Rogue.
A federal lawsuit filed Oct. 29 in Eugene claims the collection agency repeatedly called the Springfield home of the mother and stepfather of Brian Gunderson, a 31-year-old U.S. Army sergeant now deployed in Iraq.
According to the lawsuit, the phone calls began in April in an attempt to collect on a loan Gunderson took out to buy a Nissan pickup. The calls continued after the couple told the company to cease contacting them, the lawsuit says.
In June 2008, the lawsuit says, the Phoenix-based company called to say they could contact Gunderson's commanding officer who would "rough him up, since soldiers are not to leave on deployment in debt."
Major Michael Braibish, spokesman for the Oregon National Guard, says many combat troops are in debt and it's not against any rules. He adds that soldiers are often the victims of predatory debt collectors.
"A commanding officer is not gonna rough up his troops over financial issues," Braibish says. "They want that troop focused on the mission."
The suit, filed by Salem lawyer Keith Karnes, seeks unspecified damages for alleged violations of state and federal debt-collection laws.
Despite being a company that makes its living phoning for debts, Associated Creditors Exchange did not return a phone call seeking comment.