• Orlando company's assets frozen after alleged unauthorized debt collections


    ORLANDO, Fla. - Attorney General Pam Bondi has frozen the assets of an Orlando debt collection company whose employees are accused of posing as cops and government agents to collect debt.

    Investigators said the company has been preying on customers by collecting debts they weren't authorized to take and a warrant was served Friday morning at the business on Maguire Boulevard.

    Channel 9 learned the company is accused of using scare tactics by pretending to be law officers or other authority figures to make the victims pay up. Two of the company's names are Vanderbilt & Associates, LLC, and Buchanan Capital Management, LLC.

    Channel 9's Karla Ray spoke with owner Merril Miller, but he denied any wrongdoing and said his business is a legitimate debt collection agency.

    On Friday, Orlando police pulled truckloads of paperwork and electronics from the offices. Miller showed up as the raid was happening.

    He didn't want to talk about whether anything illegal was going on and when he was asked if he was instructing employees to act like law enforcement, he responded, "No, not at all."

    "We're just a collection agency, a legal collection agency," Miller said.

    "Putting fear in these people, that they are debt collectors, that they are going to take their homes, take everything they own, and these victims were terrified, and a lot of times that's how they were scared into giving up the money," said Sgt. Jim Young of the Orlando Police Department.

    In many cases, those debts didn't exist or had already been paid, authorities said. And some people have been scammed out of more than $200,000, according to authorities.

    And authorities said some alleged victims may not even know they have been targeted.

    "Why do you think they're here today?" asked Ray.

    "Don't know," said Miller. "When you have people that owe debt and they decide they don't owe the debt, and they will falsify and say that they don't and will write complaints. "

    One person was arrested, but only because he had drugs on him at the time, officials said.

    Agents said they confiscated 50 computers from the business. They said the next step is to go through the hard drives to search for evidence and additional victims, which could take weeks.

    Miller, however, said there's nothing to find.

    "They have a lot of computers, but they don't have any evidence," said Miller.

    "Do you expect to be arrested for anything going on here?" asked Ray.

    "No," said Miller. "If I was, he would've arrested me right here."

    One person was arrested, but only because he had drugs on him at the time, officials said. Police said they expect several arrests from the operation.

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