Cobb County debt collecting minister closes business, arrested - CBS46 News

Cobb County debt collecting minister closes business, arrested

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COBB COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

Sharisse Williams, owner of Rosenthal, Stein & Associates, said a CBS Atlanta News investigation into her troubled debt collection company in Marietta, forced her to close the business earlier this year. "You destroyed me financially," said Williams when investigative reporter Jeff Chirico contacted her by phone Friday.

Williams declined an on-camera interview to discuss her recent arrest for allegedly providing false information to collect unemployment insurance. According to a criminal warrant filed in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Williams was arrested in July for allegedly obtaining $6,010 in unemployment benefits in 2009.

Williams and RSA have faced more than a dozen federal lawsuits alleging RSA collectors used aggressive and illegal tactics to obtain money from debtors. Federal law prohibits debt collectors from harassing or threatening debtors even if they are in default. 

CBS Atlanta has confirmed that the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection has an open and active investigation into RSA. According to court records, Williams has not cooperated with OCP's investigation.   

"They threaten you. They use scare tactics," Boris Townsend of Huntsville, AL, told CBS Atlanta investigative reporter Jeff Chirico in 2012.

He said collectors tried to get $900 out of him for a $400 pay day loan he had already paid back.

"She said you either give me the debit card number or you face going to jail," Townsend said.

"In simple terms it freaks out my clients," said Attorney Bill Horn who represents Townsend and another man allegedly harassed by RSA.

Horn said RSA uses confusing, legal-sounding jargon to frighten debtors.

The West Virginia Attorney General filed a civil suit against Rosenthal, Stein & Associates in April 2012 but a representative with the AG's office would not tell CBS Atlanta News the status of the case. 

When initially approached about the accusations, Williams said she does not condone aggressive tactics and fired two employees who used them. She said she teaches her staff to be "creative."

Williams, who claimed she's an ordained minister, showed CBS Atlanta how she starts each work day. Dressed in a white robe with a gold embroidered cross, Williams leads a circle of employees in prayer. 

Horn accused Williams of using a company name that sounds like a law firm to scare people into paying.

Williams said there is no Rosenthal and no Stein.

"The name is definitely created," said Williams who denied it was meant to frighten people. 

"I do my best. I can't listen to everything. I can't be everywhere," Williams said.

Townsend said he learned his rights and learned he doesn't actually have to pay RSA and intends to sue the company. 

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