Crime & Courts

Phony debt collectors from Charlotte scared hundreds into paying them millions, feds say

Listen to a debt collection fraud call

Listen to an employee of an unscrupulous debt collector trick a victim into paying by pretending to be a law enforcement officer and illegally threatening arrest and other legal action.
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Listen to an employee of an unscrupulous debt collector trick a victim into paying by pretending to be a law enforcement officer and illegally threatening arrest and other legal action.

Two Charlotte residents led a nationwide debt collection scheme that frightened hundreds of people into paying them millions of dollars, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray.

Prosecutors said 46-year-old Laurence Sessum and 50-year-old Dianne Okomba face lengthy prison terms after a federal jury found each guilty late Wednesday of conspiracy to commit wire fraud through their fake debt collection company.

Victims were told they’d be jailed or hauled into court if they didn’t pay up, according to a news release by Murray’s office. The scammers bilked people out of $5.7 million in connection with the scheme, court records show.

Sessum bought lists of “old and unenforceable debts” to find his victims, prosecutors said in the release, without identifying where he bought the lists or which companies the victims once owed money to.

Sessum’s fraudulent Direct Processing LLC left “automated messages for victims, directing them to contact the company to resolve the purported debts,” according to the release.

Okomba oversaw other debt collectors for the company and managed its bank accounts, prosecutors said. Prosecutors have not disclosed if anyone else faces charges in the case.

The FBI investigated the scheme, which lasted from 2013 until 2017, court records show.

The jury in U.S. District Court in Charlotte also found Sessum guilty of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and obstruction of justice. Okomba also was found guilty of obstruction of justice.

Each conviction carries up to 20 years in prison. Sessum and Okomba’s sentencing dates have not been set.

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