http://wvgazette.com/section/Business/2003090222 September 03, 2003 Collection agency executives ordered to appear in court By Paul Wilson Staff Writer A New Jersey collection company violated court orders to reimburse West Virginians it allegedly swindled and failed to provide records of its work in the state, according to a filing on Tuesday from the state attorney generalâ??s office. In response to the filing in Kanawha Circuit Court, Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. ordered National Check Control Services of Secaucus, N.J., to send three officials who were named in the lawsuit to appear before him on Oct. 10 to explain why â??they should not be held in contempt and duly sanctioned.â? â??This is the first step in a long process,â? Assistant Attorney General Norman Googel said. â??If they have a good reason for not complying, they need to come down here and say what they are.â? In May, Attorney General Darrell McGrawâ??s office sued National Check Control, saying the company illegally threatened residents who allegedly wrote bad checks with jail time, tried to overcharge them and called them â??hillbilliesâ? and â??trailer trash,â? among other things. The lawsuit said the company bought the right to collect on about 1 million bad checks, mostly for amounts below $25, from three collection agencies. In June, Zakaib ordered the company to provide records of its work in the state, reimburse residents who paid the company and end operations in West Virginia. Although it has ignored the rest of the ruling, National Check Control has apparently stopped calling West Virginians, Googel said. More than 30 state residents filed complaints with the attorney generalâ??s office. Each was told to pay the checkâ??s amount plus a $130 fee, or face jail, Googel said. According to affidavits Googel read to Zakaib at a June hearing, one woman said an employee told her she couldnâ??t wait to â??put her in prison until she rots.â? One man said an employee told him, â??Weâ??re the mafia. Youâ??re going to jail.â? National Check Control was not represented at the hearing. The companyâ??s tactics are illegal, but even if they werenâ??t, the people who allegedly wrote the checks could not be prosecuted, Googel said. The statute of limitations, one year for checks of $500 or less, has run out because all of the checks were for less than that amount and were allegedly written in the late 1990s, he said. In a letter to Googel earlier this year, National Check Controlâ??s lawyer, Charles Hutchins, said the alleged harassment never happened, and that the complaints â??are characteristic of those who have a long history of check fraud/theft by deception.â? Barry Sussman, company president and chief executive officer, has defended his tactics in other news reports, saying bad checks should be treated as cash, not debt. Therefore, certain consumer protection laws would not apply. But a court rejected that interpretation, at least temporarily, as part of a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against the company, Googel said. â??Now, nationwide, theyâ??re not allowed to do any of the things they were doing,â? he said. â??In essence, the courtâ??s not going to change its mind on that.â? Sussman and Hutchins, along with Vice President Wayne Krause, are the three company officials who must appear before Zakaib, Googel said. Sussman spent 44 months in prison in the late 1980s and early 1990s on mail fraud charges. In prison, he wrote a manual that explained how to obtain phony identification and disclosed the codes that show the relationship between Social Security numbers and places and dates of birth.