Judge sentences Concord man behind $6 million debt collection scheme
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Cedric Clark owned the debt collection company Berkeley Hughes and Associates. Prosecutors said BHA tricked thousands of Americans out of millions of dollars.
Prosecutors said BHA coerced people to pay money, even when they didn't owe any, and that BHA made $6 million "on the backs of people who had no money."
Prosecutors said BHA harassed family members, even a victim's son who has autism, and posed as law enforcement threatening to arrest people. BHA would sometimes play a police scanner in the background of calls for effect.
Prosecutors said BHA used a threatening script for calls, would bad-mouth victims to their bosses and would search the web for more personal information they could use against victims.
Clark told the judge he tried to run a legitimate company. He also said that he had about 70 employees at one point and even offered them health benefits and 401Ks, but somewhere along the way, Clark told the judge, he ended up getting "misled," and that he "apologizes" to all of the victims.
He told the judge he took "full responsibility" as he and relatives became emotional in court.
Clark and his lawyer, Samuel Randall IV, argued Clark bought lists of debtors legally, so it was proper for him to try to collect the debt. Some people even owed the money BHA demanded.
Still, the judge called Clark's tactics predatory, brutal and bullying, and sentenced Clark to three-and-a-half years behind bars.
After court, Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke asked Clark, "Prosecutors say there are thousands of victims across the country.
What are the words for them?"
"There were 45 people that are owed money," Randall said.
"So, where do federal prosecutors come up with their
numbers?" Stoogenke asked.
Clark and Randall didn't respond to that question.
"Even bullying an autistic son?” Stoogenke persisted. “Playing police scanners in the background?
Pretending law enforcement was somehow coming to arrest people?
I mean, you say 45 people, but that doesn't tell the whole story, does it?"
"It tells a different story than you,” Randall said.
At least five other BHA employees pleaded guilty in this case.
Last week, prosecutors announced charges against six other people in a related case.
They said one of those suspects taught Clark the business.
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