Let’s Play Make Believe
Repo man assumed the identity of a federal marshal to obtain illegal cell pings.
[Update 2/10/2016: Edens was sentenced to one year in federal prison and three years probation after release. He has been serving the remainder of his sentence for stalking and harassment in a Georgia Department of Corrections Prison. He’ll begin his federal prison sentence once his current sentence is completed.]
We’ve all made mistakes. I’ve probably made more mistakes than you have and I’m like any other person who’ll sheepishly look down in shame to reluctantly admit guilt. It’s easier for me to auto-correct as I get older though (thanks to five hours per year of mandatory ethics classes).
Auto recovery in this decade is a noble profession and I believe that my vendors are experts in doing the job in the field as I also am, in my own right, an expert at finding people who dodge the repo trucks.
If a person can deliver industry “speak” then I assume that I’m not dealing with someone who's going to cause a huge lawsuit that could end my client-relationship and cost me thousands in attorney fees. If their repossession insurance is current and they have a valid tow truck license, then I’m good.
What’s a red flag for you? After you read my story, which I can only deliver to you as part one, with a promise of an even greater part two, and then an OH MY GOD part three, you’ll want to create a strict protocol for vetting your vendors.
Skip tracing has always been a connection kind of thing with knowing people who’re crafty at getting information of one type or another. The more people you know in your business, the better your successes are. I’ve always happily extended the courtesy to those who extend courtesy to me.
With building trust in a vendor, I expect that the good ethics that I am seeing is retroactive and assume that the same business ethic will remain for years to come, but this isn’t always the case. I’ll never again verify a valid license and assume that license is valid this same time next year.
A solid tip is to ask for a binder to be sent directly to you from your vendor’s insurance agent. This has no cost to you as a client and hopefully will be included in your new protocol for vetting vendors. Second on that list would be to look at the state’s licensing board to see if a license is indeed valid. When there’s no license and continued boasting of errors and commissions insurance that has never expired, ask for proof insurance. Don’t take the vendors word for it. If someone says that they’re licensed in another state, buyer beware…call the other state.
In November of 2014, I had an intense disagreement with a vendor, a skip tracer in the state of Georgia. Our argument was about cell phone pinging, a hot topic these days. He said some things that I intensely disagreed with and I gave him the screaming directive to never call me again. I said it more than once on the same call, which I was hoping would be our last.
Apparently, I didn’t scream loud enough because the very next day the Georgia skip-tracer-would-be-repo-man called me again. Slipping down the hall in my office building, I spoke to my attorney who told me just to give him a callback and record it so that I can prove to my local police department that I adequately gave him the instruction to stop contacting me, so later that evening I did just that.
And then this happened…
I was calm as I had intended on telling him that I was serious the day before and bluntly go on about how I was sorry that he didn’t understand. Two employees sat before me for moral support and also there as witnesses in the event that my recording was obliterated by demons in the system.
What should have taken ten minutes took an entire hour. I wasn’t able to tell him to never call me again because when he answered the phone he immediately began to tell me that I scared him the day before (apparently I didn’t scare him enough). He then told me in great detail how he impersonated a U.S. Marshall to get illegal cell phone pings directly from cell phone carriers. He ended with, “wouldn’t it be great if we can get these all the time?”
Am I a whistleblower? Hell no and I only speak up against someone when I see that my peers are getting swindled and I believe the truth needs to be told. I looked through emails from him which I’d never opened and discovered those contained the responses from a mobile provider which included the longitude and latitude coordinates of the phone user’s location with a date and time of the ping and a map with a pin dropped on it and yet another email contained a detail call history.
Knowing that this man was going to eventually get caught and seeing how he’s emailed me the information he illegally obtained, I decided I had to turn over my recording to the United States. It took our government six months to formally charge him and he was arrested this past May. John Edens was already on probation for stalking and harassment and was featured on 20/20 on November 28, 2014, as part of an expose on debt collectors.
More research into Edens revealed that the woman who sued him for sending harassing text messages intending to bully her into surrendering her car, filed a civil suit against him with the name John Anderson. She had no idea who he really was. Along with confirming his prior convictions, it didn’t take me long to figure out that he had no repossession insurance, no collection insurance, and probably no knowledge of the FDCPA which prohibits using a fictitious name, harassment, and contacting a debtor on their cell phone. I’m told he immediately confessed although later recanted.
John accepted a plea agreement for one year in prison, he had to serve the remainder of his probation in a Georgia prison as he was convicted for domestic battery. He was also restrained with a protective order in the same case. After he finished his prison sentence in Georiga he was transferred to the federal penitentiary.