Release date: 7/17/2019
(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein was granted a temporary restraining order against Cornelius resident Gordon Scott Engle and his Texas-based debt collection companies Turtle Creek Assets Ltd. (TCA), Turtle Creek Rentals LLC (TCR), and Royal Park Holdings Inc., in a lawsuit he filed alleging illegal debt collection practices. The temporary restraining order, signed by Superior Court Judge A. Graham Shirley, prohibits the defendants from engaging in debt collection practices or unfair or deceptive acts, destroying or removing business and financial records, and seeking criminal summonses in North Carolina until a preliminary injunction hearing.
“I’m grateful that these debt collectors won’t be able to threaten North Carolina consumers as this case continues,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “My office will not allow companies to illegally operate in our state and mistreat hardworking people.”
The lawsuit alleges that between 2012 and 2018, Engle used his debt collection companies to purchase unpaid consumer debt from Aarons Inc., a national corporation that sells customers rent-to-own household furniture, appliances, and electronics. Since 2018, Engle has collected or attempted to collect on these unpaid debts from North Carolina consumers. However, Engle’s companies are registered in Texas, and he failed to file the appropriate registration to operate in North Carolina with the North Carolina Secretary of State or obtain the necessary permits to operate as a collection agency from the North Carolina Department of Insurance.
Customers received collection notices from TCA or TCR telling them they had committed a criminal violation by failing to return rented property. These notices appear to be, but are not, official court notices. Some of these letters even include unsigned criminal summonses that appear to be real, but do not have any legal effect, and were delivered by hired private police officers. The companies threatened to file a criminal complaint against consumers if they failed to return the rented property to a specified address within 48 hours. When consumers contacted TCA or TCR, they received more unlawful debt collection threats, including threats of arrest. In addition to sending these unsigned summonses, Engle and his companies also filed hundreds of criminal complaints with misleading language in several North Carolina counties that resulted in actual criminal summonses being issued against customers.
Attorney General Stein is alleging that Engle and his companies have violated North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Business Corporation Act, Professional Corporation Act, Uniform Partnership Act, and North Carolina’s Prohibited Practices by Collection Agencies Engaged in Collection of Debts from Consumers. In addition to the temporary restraining order he was granted, Attorney General Stein is also seeking civil penalties, restoration of money paid, restitution, and preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief.
A copy of the temporary restraining order is available here.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484