PHOENIX - Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced today a consent judgment against Mark Anthony Smith, the owner and manager of debt collection businesses CMS Financial Group, John Lee Group & Associates, and TD Financial Solutions Group AZ. The judgment permanently bars Smith from participating in any debt collection activities and requires Smith to pay more than $1.6 million for consumer restitution. The judgment includes up to $900,000 in civil penalties. The consent judgment is pending court approval.
“Debt collectors engaging in misleading, harassing, or threatening behavior have certainly crossed the line,” said Attorney General Brnovich. "My office is committed to protecting all consumers, including those with debts, from bad actors attempting to profit from fraudulent and unlawful practices.”
In a lawsuit filed in September 2020, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) alleged that Smith’s businesses called consumers and made false claims and threats, convincing people to pay debts they had no authority to collect. In March 2021, Arizona obtained a preliminary injunction against Smith, prohibiting him and his businesses from continuing to engage in any debt collection activities.
According to the AGO lawsuit, employees of Smith’s debt collection businesses impersonated law enforcement officers, government officials, process servers, and law firm personnel in order to scare or intimidate consumers into paying alleged debts. In voicemails (recordings provided below), Smith’s employees told consumers to immediately respond or face court action. When people returned the voicemails, the debt collectors allegedly tried to intimidate consumers by threatening to garnish wages and tax returns, place liens on homes and car titles, freeze bank accounts, send law enforcement to their homes and/or places of employment, and arrest consumers.
Arizona's lawsuit alleged that Smith’s debt collection businesses frequently used spoofing software to make it appear their calls came from government agencies. Between January 2016 and April 2021, the debt collectors made approximately 75,655 spoofed calls. Many of them appeared to be from courthouses, law enforcement agencies, and other public offices.
Any consumers who believe they have been harmed by the conduct of CMS Financial Group, John Lee Group & Associates, or TD Financial Solutions Group AZ, should file a complaint here by August 8, 2022.
Assistant Attorney General Alyse Meislik handled this case.
If you believe you have been a victim of consumer fraud, you can file a consumer complaint by visiting the Attorney General’s website. If you need a complaint form sent to you, please contact the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6648, or outside those metro areas at 1(800) 352-8431. Bilingual consumer protection staff is available to assist.