Regardless of whether or not it is even legal.
According to a report published in the Tampa Bay Times (12/10/14), Joyce and Nelson Coniglio - longtime residents of Tampa - purchased a second home in their neighborhood for $180,000 as an investment. The purchase was, at the time, affordable for the couple. However, things soon began to unravel, starting with the failure of Countrywide Financial, the lender that initially advanced mortgage funds to the Coniglios. Bank of America picked up the mortgage, which then decided in a force-placed insurance move to impose a more expensive insurance policy on the house, effectively doubling the payments for the Coniglios to $2,800 per month.
With the recession of 2008, the Coniglios had trouble making the payments. That’s when the bank went into debt collector harassment mode and kept dogging the Coniglios for payment. Both live and robocalls added up to no fewer than 700 harassing calls and placed at all hours.
“We would be out at dinner and they would ring my mother’s cell phone,” said Jason Coniglio, their dutiful son who was a mortgage broker at the time and was attempting to help his parents out of the mess. “Then they would call my dad’s cell phone and then when we got back to the house, there would be another message on the answering machine.”
Verbal and written requests to stop the harassing calls went unheeded. Jason Coniglio had asked the bank to redirect all calls concerning the matter to him, in order to spare his parents. Those requests were also, allegedly, ignored.
According to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a debt collector is required to cease harassing calls once a verbal or written request to stop the calls has been issued. Any call beyond the receipt of a cease-and-desist order is interpreted as a willful violation of the law.
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The award in the bill collector lawsuit is $1,051,000 or roughly, according to the report, about $1,500 for each of the 700 calls made to the Coniglios’ cell phones as the bank practiced bill collector harassment.
It is not clear if Bank of America will appeal the debt collector lawsuit. In August, Bank of America settled with the US government over allegedly shoddy mortgage practices. That agreement cost Bank of America $16 billion.
The case is Coniglio et al v. Bank of America, N.A., Case No. 8:2014cv01628, filed July 2, 2014 in Florida Middle District Court.