The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Arizona residents Mark Anthony Smith and Deborah Ann Butler, who operated debt collection businesses CMS Financial Group, John Lee Group & Associates, and TD Financial Solutions Group AZ.
Allegedly the defendants call consumers in Arizona and nationwide, and make false claims and threats to convince them to pay debts that they have no authority to collect.
According to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) lawsuit, Smith and Butler’s debt collection businesses impersonate law enforcement officers and process servers when calling consumers. In voicemails (recordings provided below), the defendants tell consumers that they must immediately respond or be subject to court action. When people return the voicemails, the defendants allegedly try to intimidate consumers by threatening to garnish wages and tax returns, place liens on houses and car titles, freeze bank accounts, send law enforcement to consumers’ homes and/or place of employment, and have consumers arrested.
The State alleges Smith and Butler frequently use spoofing software to make it appear their calls originate from government agencies. Between January 2016 and May 2020, the defendants placed approximately 65,800 spoofed calls, many of which appeared to be from courthouses, law enforcement agencies, and other public offices.
The AGO alleges since October 2015, Smith and Butler have processed and collected over $1.6 million in payments from consumers. To date, the defendants have not provided any proof that they have any authority to collect the debt.
The AGO lawsuit seeks restitution against the defendants, civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, attorneys’ fees and costs, and injunctive relief.