Defaults on consumer loans have hit record levels
, such that investment banks are bidding as low as 68 cents on the dollar for auto loan-backed securities. But if a lawsuit filed in Illinois Circuit Court
can be believed, it's not for lack of trying to squeeze payments out of them. According to an Illinois resident and Mercedes driver named named James Ricobene, a collection agency hired by JP Morgan Chase went so far as to leave a threatening wall post on his daughter's MySpace page. (If this
is her, she has since deleted it -- but she kept this appropriate photo
of a car spray-painted with the words "HOPE SHE WAS WORTH IT.") According to the lawsuit, the message the collection agency allegedly posted on the daughter's MySpace page ("on or about March 20, 2009 at 3:25 p.m.") read as follows:
We have been retained by, JPMorgan Chase Bank, to locate and repossess their missing collateral a 2007 Mercedes GL 450. Please contact our office immediately so we can discuss the peaceful recovery of the collateral. Failure to contact me will result in further action against your father James Ricobene. Legal options range from having a replevin order served on you or even worse reporting the collateral as stolen to local authorities in Illinois under the A.R.S. act 18-5-504. Failure to comply with this notice of surrender is a class 5 felony and carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years plus all applicable surcharges. You must contact the writer within 5 days to prevent this action from taking place. You can contact me directly at 800-667-7704 ext 222 or directly at 604-267-1581 ext. 222
Awaiting your immediate response.
Did he get a response!
The clever collection agency implicated is a Washington State firm called Universal Tracing Services Inc. Quoth its website:
Universal tracing prides itself in using the latest technology and resources to track down and locate the hardest to find missing persons, and debtors.
Of course, if the neglected state of her wall is any indication, Gina Ricobene might have found an even more current social-networking platform -- but the bigger problem, according to her father's complaint, is that in the absence of a court order refusing to surrender collateral is not a crime in Illinois, much less a "class 5 felony," which the suit claims is a made-up term. The suit accuses Universal and JP Morgan of libel, fraud and invasion of privacy.
Neither Universal nor JP Morgan Chase would comment on the specifics of the suit, but Universal president Ron Larsen did confirm that his company had been contracted by JP Morgan. Larsen said no one named Chris Flanagan had ever worked for him, and vowed to fight the charges "vehemently" in court, though he would not say the name of his attorney. Larsen also explained that his company was not a collection agency, but a tracing firm in the business of tracking down assets and people. Presumably, they will figure out how to track down Chris Flanagan. In other news, they are hiring right now.