Salt Lake City Robbery Derailed by Clerk with Ax Handle

Salt Lake City Robbery Derailed

Photo: Utah, Salt Lake City

A man who attempted the robbery of a Salt Lake City convenience store on Sunday, Nov. 23, apparently chose the wrong store. The clerk fought back with an ax handle, and the suspect is now in jail on charges of robbery and aggravated assault.

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

According to a report from KSL News, on Sunday morning at approximately 3:30 a.m., the suspect, a 23-year-old male whose name hasn’t been released, entered a Salt Lake Maverik Country Store. In addition to not listing the suspect’s name, the report didn’t state whether the man had a weapon, however, it would seem that he didn’t because the clerk refused his demands for money.

When the suspect came behind the counter and threatened the clerk, the clerk struck the suspect several times in the head with an ax handle. The suspect got the weapon at some point, chasing the clerk around the store before fleeing after the clerk escaped the store. An unsuccessful robbery indeed.

Salt Lake Police Lt. Michael Ross stated that they received a call not long after about a man bleeding from his head. Aided by the identification of the suspect by the Maverik clerk, the police arrested the man, took him to the hospital for treatment of the head wounds, then booked him into the Salt Lake County Jail for robbery and aggravated assault.

Robbery Charges Discussed

The fact that the suspect is only being charged with robbery is further evidence that he most likely didn’t have a weapon (otherwise it would be aggravated robbery). According to Utah Criminal Code 76-6-301, in this case the suspect may be guilty of robbery if he “unlawfully and intentionally takes or attempts to take personal property in the possession of another from his person, or immediate presence, against his will, by means of force or fear”. Even though the suspect wasn’t successful, the key word is “attempts.”

Robbery is considered a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If you or someone you know has been charged with robbery, you don’t want to get the full brunt of this charge. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work on your behalf.

Debt Collection Practices Result in Arrests; Spotlights Flaws in the System

debt collection agency arrests

Photo: Jason Taellious

For most people, it’s not a surprise that borrowing from a payday or title loan company is going to come with ridiculously high finance charges and interest rates. A recent report by the Utah Department of Financial Institutions illustrated exactly how exorbitant these rates can be. For someone who is already at the point that many would call a “last resort” when they need to take out such a nontraditional loan, perhaps the last thing they need is additional fees and finance charges, and when they are unable to repay those loans, debt collection enters the picture. A practice that brings to mind mafia loan sharks with lead pipes, debt collection has come into the spotlight recently with the arrests of the owner and six employees of a Georgia-based debt collection agency which misled thousands of people nationwide. Several government agencies are collaborating on a larger scale investigation of abusive debt collection practices.

More than just Shady Debt Collection Practices

The debt collection agency in question is based in Georgia. According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan, who is overseeing the case, the collectors at Williams, Scott & Associates were using intimidating and illegal bullying tactics to get people to pay millions of dollars between the years of 2009 and 2014. These tactics included falsely identifying themselves as a “detective” or “investigator” either for local law enforcement or government task forces such as the U.S. Justice Department or Marshals Service. Threats by the debt collection agents for Williams, Scott & Associates included activating felony warrants for check fraud or suspending driver’s licenses.

Bharara stated that a larger investigation is being conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, The Federal Trade Commission, the FBI, and federal prosecutors. To date, this would be the first time all of these agencies have worked together on such an investigation.

“We are far from finished looking at the seedy side of debt collection,” Bharara said. “It affects too many people.”

Is Debt Collection Inevitable with Nontraditional Loans?

According to an article from CNN Money citing a recent Urban Institute study, approximately one in three adults with a credit history have some form of debt that has been put into collections. That is approximately 77 million U.S. citizens.

As far as individual states are concerned, Utah’s neighbor to the southwest, Nevada, has the highest percentage of residents with debt in collection. This has been largely attributed to the population of Las Vegas, where roughly 49 percent of residents are being sought for debt collection.

Regarding Williams, Scott & Associates, investigators have said many of the targets of debt collection harassment had taken out payday loans. According to the report from the Utah Department of Financial Institutions, while payday loans’ average annual interest rate percent is down from 2012, it was still averaging 466 percent in 2013. The report found the highest percentage rates to be as much 1,546 percent annual interest. While many Utah legislators are working on regulation legislation for these companies, currently Utah has no cap on the amount of interest that can be charged.

In an article from the Salt Lake Tribune, David Parkinson, spokesman for the Utah Consumer Lending Association of payday loans, said that reporting annual percentage rates are misleading, given the fact that most payday loans are short term, limited to ten weeks. However, critics and advocates for the poor say that people are often pressured into taking out new loans at the end of that period to avoid default.

George Venizelos, the New York FBI assistant director, confirmed this idea regarding Williams, Scott & Associates. “This scheme took advantage of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens from all fifty states.”

Know Your Rights Regarding Debt Collection

While Utah legislators are working toward payday and title loan regulation, certain laws are already in effect when it comes to debt collection practices.

In 1977, the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act was passed. It is currently enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. In addition to the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was given the authority to monitor the country’s largest debt collection agencies in 2012. Their powers include the ability to go into the offices of those agencies to make sure customers are being treated fairly, including assuring debt collectors properly identify themselves.

Under the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act, the customer is additionally protected. These protections include not being contacted by a debt collector at unreasonable hours or locations such as work if notified as such. Harassment such as threats of violence, use of obscene language, or repeated phone calls are not permitted, nor are the use of false statements such as those used by Williams, Scott & Associates.

Payday loans and title loans aren’t a great idea, but for some people, they are unavoidable. Going into debt isn’t something people normally choose, but sometimes life has other plans. If you default on your debt and it goes to a collections agency, they do have certain legal rights in which to collect that money and your credit can be negatively affected, but you are also protected from unsavory debt collection practices.

Man Sought for Security Camera Vandalism in Salt Lake City

video camera vandalism

Photo: Leon Brooks/Wikimedia Commons

In a random act of vandalism, a man destroyed a security camera in a parking garage. The Salt Lake City Police Department is hoping the public will be able to help identify the man.

Take THAT, Stupid Security Camera

According to a report from KSL News, the vandalism occurred on Saturday, Nov. 8, when a man entered the parking garage of the Salt Palace Convention Center. Apparently practicing for when he’s rich and famous and has to fend off the paparazzi—or outright assault them, like celebrities Alec Baldwin or Sam Worthington—the man punched a security camera off the wall, then proceeded to pick it up and throw it to the ground.

Even though police don’t know his identity, they know what the suspect looks like. Before being assaulted, the video camera was able to grab an image of him. He is described as being white, approximately six-feet tall and 200 pounds. Police are guessing his age to be in his twenties.

At Least it was just Vandalism

When the man is caught, he will be lucky not to be Alec Baldwin or Sam Worthington. Well, at least as far as criminal charges are concerned. The vandalism charges in this case would most likely be less than assault charges.

According to Utah Code 76-6-106, vandalism is considered “criminal mischief.” Vandalism ranges from a class B misdemeanor, resulting in up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, up to a second degree felony, resulting in up to fifteen years in prison and a fine up to $15,000. The different levels are based on the following criteria:

  • if the vandalism occurred to “critical infrastructure” such as information, transportation, banking or public utilities
  • if it is insurance fraud
  • if it endangered life
  • the value of the property

For example, a second degree felony results when a person “recklessly causes or threatens a substantial interruption or impairment of any critical infrastructure” or if the property damaged is over $5,000 in value. The lowest conviction, the class B misdemeanor, results when someone’s actions endanger human health or safety (but not life) or if the property is less than $500 in value.

Vandalism, or criminal mischief, has a wide range of interpretation and potential subsequent punishments. If you or someone you know has been charged with criminal mischief, make sure to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will look out for your best interests.