John Todd Williams, AKA “JT,” AKA “Joe Steele,” was sentenced on Thursday , November 10, to five years in prison for perpetrating a multi-year debt collection fraud scheme that defrauded more than 6,000 victims around the country out of millions of dollars. Williams owned and operated a debt collection company based in Norcross, Georgia, called Williams, Scott & Associates, AKA “WSA,” AKA “Warrant Services Association,” AKA “WSA.” Williams and his co-conspirators, whom he employed as debt collected at WSA, tricked and coerced victims into making payments to WSA by making false threats and telling a host of lies. These threats included falsely claiming that warrants had been issued for the victim’s arrest or that criminal charges were pending against them. A jury convicted Williams of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on July 12, 2016, after a five-day trial.
According to the evidence presented at trial:
Between approximately 2009 and May 2014, employees working for WSA, led by Williams, routinely attempted to trick and coerce thousands of victims throughout the United States into paying millions of dollars in consumer debts through a variety of false statements and false threats. Employees of WSA typically used aliases, sometimes referring to themselves as “Detective” or “Investigator,” falsely advised consumers they had committed purported crimes such as “check fraud” or “depository check fraud,” and told consumers that if they failed to make immediate payments to WSA to resolve the matters, warrants would be issued for their arrest. WSA employees also falsely claimed that WSA had contracts with, or was otherwise affiliated with, certain federal or local law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Among other false statements, WSA employees also claimed that WSA was a law firm or otherwise worked with lawyers, and that they would have the victims’ driver’s licenses suspended if those victims did not make payment to WSA. To falsely create an appearance of legitimacy, and further trick their victims into making payments, WSA employees routinely used legal terminology to invent legitimate-sounding, but completely bogus, explanations for the supposed imminent arrest of the victims, including for example, that the “statute of limitations” on the victims’ “civil legal rights” had expired and therefore the matter was now a criminal matter that could be resolved only by voluntary payment to WSA, or arrest. Williams and WSA employees also attempted to collect debts from victims who had already paid off their loans. When victims told WSA employees that they had already paid their debts, they were told, at Williams’s instruction, that “you can’t pay a debt with a debt instrument,” i.e., a credit card.
In addition to the prison term, Williams, 50, of Norcross, Georgia, was ordered to pay over $3.9 million in restitution to his victims.