NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today delivered $2 million to Erie County to bolster consumer protection programs in Western New York. The funding comes from a previous action that Attorney General James took to shut down a predatory debt collection operation that preyed on consumers nationwide. The debt collection operation, comprised of several companies including JPL Recovery Solutions, falsely threatened consumers with harsh consequences if they did not pay and inflated the true amount of debts owed. As a result of the agreement, the debt collection operation paid the state $2 million, which Attorney General James is delivering to Erie County. The county will use the funding to expand consumer protection initiatives and hire a full-time, in-house attorney in the county’s Consumer Protection Office to pursue enforcement action against predatory and unlawful businesses, including deceitful home improvement contractors.
“I am proud to deliver this funding to support critical programs that will help protect consumers in Buffalo and across Erie County,” said Attorney General James. “Predatory businesses harm hardworking New Yorkers and leave them struggling to make ends meet. These funds will help ensure consumers have the resources and support they need to get their money back and stop scammers. My office will continue to use every tool to protect New Yorkers from fraud and deception.”
“I want to thank Attorney General James for securing this funding for the expansion of the services and programs offered through the Erie County Office of Consumer Protection,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “We will now be able to better investigate consumer complaints and improve our ability to educate our residents about predatory and unlawful businesses attempting to take advantage of others. Today’s announcement is the latest example of why my administration created a dedicated office to ensure that Erie County residents have access to education, information and resources regarding consumer protection to defend against predatory practices and protect those whose rights have been violated.”
“I want to commend Attorney General Letitia James for standing up for Buffalo and Erie County,” said Erie County Legislature Chair April N. M. Baskin. “When the legislature voted in 2020 to overhaul the county’s Consumer Protection Division, I said that I wanted to see it become a resource for residents targeted by telephone scam artists and fake debt collectors. Thanks to Attorney General James, that office will now have the funding necessary to expand protections for the hardworking men and women of Western New York.”
In recent years, Western New York has become a hub for debt collection businesses, many of which use deceptive and abusive tactics against consumers. In May, Attorney General James and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shut down a predatory debt collection operation comprised of several companies, including JPL Recovery Solutions. As part of the agreement, the debt collection operation paid $2 million to the CFPB and $2 million to the state. Using funding from the settlement with JPL, Erie County will:
- Hire a full-time, in-house Assistant County Attorney in the Consumer Protection Office to initiate enforcement actions against predatory businesses,
- Dedicate funds for community outreach including advocacy programs and educational resources, and
- Establish a Deputy Commissioner of Public Advocacy position to oversee and manage programs within the Consumer Protection Office.
Attorney General James has taken action against several predatory businesses in Western New York. Today’s announcement continues her efforts to protect consumers. Last year, Attorney General James banned debt collector, Andrew Fanelli and his company Northwood Asset Management Group from the consumer debt collection industry, for allegedly collecting debts using similar deceptive and illegal tactics. In 2019, Attorney General James announced a $60 million judgment against debt collection kingpin, Douglas MacKinnon, who used similar deceptive and illegal tactics.
Any consumer who feels that they have been a victim of fraud is encouraged to file an online compliant with OAG.