The business operations of a Ventura County, California, debt collection
firm have been halted after it was determined that the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Joseph, Steven & Associates and Specialized Debt Recovery operated under a variety of names in different counties - including Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo - and was repeatedly reported to the Better Business Bureau for harassing tactics. Company representatives allegedly told one woman who was unable to pay the balance due to expenses related to her daughter's funeral that they were going to "dig (the daughter) up and hang her from a tree," according to the Ventura County Star. In another instance, a woman was told that her dog would be eaten. "In my 15 years of experience in the tri-county area, these were some of the nastiest, most aggressive business people we've dealt with," said BBB president Rick Copelan, as quoted by the news source. "They were bad." According to the FTC's website, the company used the slogan "no recovery, no fee," stating that it would only charge a fee to clients if they collected a debt. However, the firm regularly kept more money than it was entitled to, instead of forwarding what was owed.