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Check guarantee company could be held in contempt

The state Attorney General's Office has asked that a check guarantee company be held in contempt for failing to turn over records in a consumer investigation.

Assistant Attorney General Norman Googel also asked Kanawha Circuit Judge Charlie King to impose fines against Envision Payment Solutions Inc. and the Charleston law firm representing it.

Googel told the judge that the Georgia-based company, along with attorney Elliott Hicks of Spilman,Thomas and Battle, did not comply with a court order by the June 3 deadline and had filed frivolous and unlawful motions to extend the case instead.

In a hearing Wednesday, Googel said, "They have been served. You ruled. It's over."

On behalf of the attorney general, Googel filed subpoenas in December against three debt collection companies based on complaints from consumers. King heard the arguments in January and in April he ordered Envison to turn over customer records for investigation.   

Googel said Hicks provided the names of about 13,000 West Virginians, but no addresses or phone numbers to contact them.

"They did not comply," he said. "What they've given us is totally meaningless. What they've given us is nothing, as far as we're concerned."

Envision is a check guarantee company that offers to verify information on check writers at the point of sale, and basically buys the check. If it bounces, the store doesn't lose money and Envision attempts to collect the funds, plus a fee, from the customer.

In doing so, such companies must adhere to debt collection laws and are not permitted to harass or threaten people.

Hicks said Envision had less than a handful of complaints in West Virginia, and he believed turning over the more than 13,000 account names went beyond compliance with the court order.

"We have not tried to bury them in information," Hicks told the judge. "To say we have not done anything is wrong. We've done a great deal. If the court orders us to do more, we'll do more."

Googel said that the Attorney General's Office hoped to survey Envision accounts to investigate whether the company was violating state laws.

He said it was the first time in his 32-year law career that he had asked for sanctions against another lawyer.

"And I don't take it lightly," he said. "But there comes a time when this style of litigation has to end. The court has ruled. They have to comply."

The court can impose a fine of up to $5,000 per day of non-compliance against Envision. Googel declined to suggest a fine to be levied against Hicks and his law firm.

He said Hicks filed two post-order motions in July to alter or amend the judge's order. But they did not file intent to appeal the judge's decision, he said.

"An amount that sends a message," Googel said. "To bring about the bull. To make them think twice about doing it in the future."

King will rule on the request at a later date.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832. 


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