By Samantha Cronk -- The Journal (Martinsburg, W.Va.)
MARTINSBURG -- West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed a lawsuit Thursday against Virginia-based automobile title payday loan company for harassment tactics against West Virginia residents.
The Attorney General's office in conjunction with West Virginia residents, including Berkeley and Jefferson County residents, filed the lawsuit against Fast Auto Loans for violating West Virginia's debt-collection laws.
Auto title loans are illegal in West Virginia, but since the company operates in Winchester, the Attorney General's office is prosecuting the loan collection process.
"These consumers have reported repeated instances of abusive telephone calls, cars confiscated without court orders, false threats of criminal prosecution and other tactics by Fast Loan in the company's attempt to collect of loans with interest rates over 300 percent," McGraw said.
"The suit also asks for civil penalties for the state as well as restitution and refunds for consumers," he said.
Martinsburg resident Mildred Morrison filed with the Attorney General against Fast Auto Loans after the company continuously harassed her through multiple phone calls to her house, family members, friends and work supervisor.
"I made that bad decision because I was putting my son through college, and I had to come up with $700 really fast and I didn't check to see. I just needed quick cash," she said.
Morrison said that although she made her payments, her amount due continued to increase. Although she eventually turned her car in to Fast Auto Loans, Morrison said the company continued to contact her for additional payments.
"I didn't think that they were going to take advantage of me like that. ... It was an awful experience, and no one should have to go through that, nobody," Morrison said.
According to the lawsuit, Fast Auto Loans current has 90 liens in Berkeley County, 34 liens in Jefferson County and eight liens in Morgan County.
Known as Fast Auto Loans in Winchester, the company operates in about 22 states, using a different name in each state, said Jill Miles, director of the Consumer Protection Division.
Fast Auto Loan's parent company Community Loans of America Inc., located in Georgia, is also named in the lawsuit, along with the Robert Reich, the president and CEO of Fast Auto Loans.