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Federal agency sues two Johnson County men, says they bilked payday loan customers out of millions

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said the payday lender used phony documents to claim that a person had applied for a loan. It then deposited unauthorized funds in the person’s bank account and began withdrawing unauthorized fees. A loan would typically be $200 to $300, with $60 to $90 in fees withdrawn every two weeks.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said the payday lender used phony documents to claim that a person had applied for a loan. It then deposited unauthorized funds in the person’s bank account and began withdrawing unauthorized fees. A loan would typically be $200 to $300, with $60 to $90 in fees withdrawn every two weeks. Aaron Eisenhauer/Correspondent

Federal authorities have asked a U.S. district judge to freeze the business activity and assets of a network of payday loan companies purportedly controlled by two local men.

The Federal Trade Commission earlier this month asked for injunctions against more than a dozen payday loan businesses controlled by two Johnson County men, Timothy A. Coppinger and Frampton T. Rowland III.

Those companies allegedly made about $28 million in payday loans over one 11-month period, “extracting” more than $46.5 million in return, according to federal court records.

“Defendants’ tactics serve the single purpose of bilking cash-strapped consumers out of as much money as possible,” federal lawyers alleged in court filings.

In some cases, the companies purchased consumer data and then gave loans to “customers” who never asked for them and then improperly took finance charges from their bank accounts, they allege.

The defendants also misrepresented the costs of their loans and then extracted finance charges from their borrowers’ bank accounts every two weeks, without every applying any of the payments to the loan principal, the lawsuit alleges.

The companies also violated federal laws requiring the accurate disclosure of loan terms and recurring electronic fund transfers, court records allege.

FTC lawyers filed the lawsuit under seal, which was lifted after U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple entered a 35-page temporary restraining order and appointed a receiver to take control of the companies.

Coppinger could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. Rowland directed questions to his lawyer, Phillip G. Greenfield, who said he planned to fight for Rowland and the companies he controls.

“We disagree with the allegations directed at them and we intend to vigorously defend them in court,” Greenfield said.

One purported victim in the scheme, a Massachusetts man, wrote in an affidavit filed as part of the lawsuit that he lost his business, a barbershop, because of unauthorized withdrawals from his account and overdraft fees.

The man also said bill collectors had hounded him for payments on a loan he never requested.

“I am trying to start a new business, but it has been difficult since I am afraid to answer the phone,” the man wrote.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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