Thursday, December 31, 2009

Return of Sewer Service

Lots of lawsuit papers are "served" here

Some years ago, a friend of mine got his annual credit report--the free one, not the one you get through bogus "freecreditreport" websites or the outfit Ben Stein shills for. Something odd stood out on the report. It seems that he was being sued! This was the first time he'd heard about it.

My friend was the victim of a foul practice known as "sewer service," based on the ancient practice of sheriffs tossing lawsuit papers in the sewer rather than serving them on the defendants, and filing false affidavits that they have been served.

My friend wasn't served in the suit at all by an unscrupulous process server, and the debt he was claimed to have owed was entirely bogus. He showed up in court and the suit was dismissed.

Sewer service is a great scam, and a very old one. The courts accept affidavits of service at face value, and enter judgments against people who often do not owe the money at at all, are victims of identity theft, or have a valid defense. Even if they don't, they are entitled to their day in court.

The New York Times today reports that a class action suit has been filed in federal court against alleged perpetrators of sewer service. I'm glad that something is being done about this, but a suit is not enough. People who perpetrate sewer service should be put in jail. It is fraud and also perjury, as it involves process servers

New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo has started taking criminal action against sewer-service scam artists, and that's great. These people belong in jail, not just back in the civil courts that they have abused.

The court system, judges and clerks, need to be proactive about this abuse. Judges and clerks are public officials, and they should blow the whistle on sewer service when they see it happening.

One thing I wonder is whether the sewer-servers alone are culpable, and whether the companies for which they work -- the big banks, utilities, and their slimy collection agencies -- aren't perfectly aware that sewer service is being utilized. As has become evident in suits involving defaulted mortgages, often collection agencies and factors who buy debts do not have sufficient paperwork to prove their case.

I'll bet that the collection agencies know that these outfits carry out sewer service, thereby letting them get an easy victory without proving their case against people who owe them money -- and those who don't.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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