NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. - A Covington man told Channel 2 he was shocked to see his paycheck short hundreds of dollars.
In 2013, Kerry Pope was served with papers for debt he didn’t fully recognize. Still, he felt pressured to settle.
“I was hassled, and basically told, ‘You need to do this, or you can lose your car -- we can come after you with garnishment for your wages,’ which at the time, I was unemployed,” Pope said.
He signed a consent agreement and agreed to pay $25 each month. A payment portal was set up by Frederick J. Hanna & Associates, the law firm handling his settlement.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued the firm for violating the Fair Debt Practices Act and it eventually dissolved. Pope told Channel 2 he thought his debt dissolved along with it.
“All the sudden my portal went away there was nowhere to send payments to, so I’m thinking it’s settled,” Pope said.
Years later, this past Ma,y he found out it wasn’t when $500 was garnished from his paycheck.
Pope said paperwork from his employer informed him that the firm Cooling & Winter had started collecting on the judgment.
Cooling & Winter told Channel 2 in an email that Pope was notified by letter of the transition of his account to their firm. Kerry is adamant he never received it.
Jill Sheridan, an attorney familiar with this type of judgment said a consent judgment is a binding contract and regardless of the portal disappearing, Kerry is responsible for the payments.
“Ultimately, if he hasn’t made any payments over a certain amount of time with a consent judgment, it would be considered in default,” Sheridan said.
Sheridan said if you’re faced with a lawsuit over a debt, make sure you know what the debt is before you sign anything -- and document everything.
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