PHOENIX (CN) - After garnishing exempt disability payments from a 100% disabled Army veteran's wife, a debt collector told the vet he was "living off social security while the rest of us honest Americans work our a-- off. Too bad; you should have died," the veteran claims in court.
Michael Collier and his wife, Kim, sued Gurstel Chargo, P.A., a Minnesota-based third-party debt collector, in Federal Court.
Collier suffered spine and head injuries in the Army and was declared 100 percent disabled. He and his wife, a college student, receive disability payments, which are exempt from execution, according to his complaint.
Nonetheless, Gurstel garnished Kim's savings account, and the credit union froze her money, to seek $6,000 from Michael's defaulted student loan.
The Colliers say they "immediately filed an objection and request for hearing."
At the hearing, Gurstel's attorney told the court that the frozen funds were indeed exempt, and promised the court that the money would be released "Right away," according to the complaint.
"The court then issued its ruling finding that the garnished funds were exempt from execution, and entered an order quashing garnishment on the credit union effective that day, May 24, 2012," the complaint states.
But in the parking lot, the Gurstel attorney told Michael Collier "he would need to get a lawyer in order to get his money back."
Collier says he called Gurstel's office, and an unidentified paralegal told him he would have to sue to get the money. When he said the money was exempt veteran disability payments, "the assistant told Michael, 'F--- you! Pay us your money! You can't afford an attorney. You owe us. I hope your wife divorces your a--. If you would have served our country better you would not be a disabled veteran living off social security while the rest of us honest Americans work our a-- off. Too bad; you should have died.'" (Spelling as in complaint.)
The Colliers seek actual damages, statutory damages, and punitive damages for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, conversion, privacy invasion, and malicious infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Floyd Bybee of Chandler.