Five Charlotte men and women are accused of posing as police and lawyers to get a total of $3 million from thousands of victims nationwide in a debt collection scheme. They even played a police scanner in the background when posing as officers, prosecutors said.
A criminal bill of indictment unsealed in federal court in Charlotte on Friday charges John Wayne Perry Jr., 36, Rhonda Renee Scott, 52, Timothy Scott Jr., 51, Paris Jontue Taylor, 37, and Rayshawn Lamont Tyler, 42, with mail and wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud. Perry, Taylor and Tyler also were charged with money laundering conspiracy.
Each charge carries a maximum 20 years in prison. Tyler is the only one to be arrested so far.
In a related case, Miranda Bailey, 29, of Charlotte, is charged with wire fraud and mail fraud conspiracy. A signed plea agreement was filed in her case on Friday, with a plea hearing set for Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
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The suspects are accused of using intimidation, threats and lies, including posing as lawyers and law enforcement, to scare victims into paying often non-existent debts, U.S. Attorney Jill Rose said in a statement. Their “shake-down tactics” included harassing the victims’ friends and families until they received payment, Rose said.
Debt collections schemes are on the rise, she said. Rose cautioned people to be vigilant when answering calls in which the caller uses threatening language.
“Do not get ripped off,” Rose said. “If contacted by a purported debt collector who threatens you with criminal charges, hang up the phone and notify law enforcement.”
According to the indictment, the suspects ran a fraudulent, Mecklenburg County-based debt collection company known as both RJ Financial Services and Nationwide Asset & Recovery.
Before joining RJ Financial, Timothy Scott was affiliated with another fraudulent debt collection company known at various times as Capital Solutions Agency, Berkley Hughes and Associates and The Vortex Group.
Seven people have been convicted in that scheme and are awaiting sentencing, prosecutors said.
“It is difficult enough for many Americans to make ends meet and pay their bills on time,” said John Strong, special agent in charge of the FBI in North Carolina.
“For criminals to prey on these hard working people is inexcusable. The FBI is working to uncover these fraudulent companies and hold those accountable for their predatory and criminal actions.”