Russ DeWitt, Editor
President, Capital Adjusters, Inc.
Past President, Nat'l Finance Adjusters
American Recovery Association
Recovery Specialist Insurance Group
Calif. Assn of Licensed Repossessors
Certified Asset Recovery Specialist
Certified Recovery Agent
REPOSSESSIONS & REMARKETING
another repo man backs up into the same driveway. This time
the debtor is waiting on his porch with a 30-30 telescopic rifle and
he shoots the repossessor through the neck and both lungs, killing
This sad scene took place on Feb 24,
1994 in Houston Texas. Tommy Morris was the second repo man in this
story and he left behind his wife and 4 children. The debtor who did
the killing, Jerry Casey, Jr, was never arrested for his actions but
ended up committing suicide 8 months later. The sad part of this story is that this
tragedy could have been avoided if the dealer who assigned out the
repossession order did not engage in the dangerous and highly
censured practice of “double assigning” accounts. Double
assigning an account is: assigning an account out for repossession to two or more repossession
agents in the same
geographical area at the same time.
Some 3 years after the shooting a Jury
ruled that Steeplechase Motors was mostly liable for Morris' death
because of their policy of double assigning and advised a $2.3
million judgment against Steeplechase, of which the judge ultimately
awarded the family $750,000.
I was in the field repossessing cars
when this incident happened. I well remember the furor it created in
the repossession industry and how the not-completely uncommon
practice of double assigning accounts stopped dead in the lending
community because of it. But memories are short, and today I am
again seeing this dangerous activity coming back to life.
Here's an example of an incident that
happened just last month. We had been assigned an account for
repossession and we found the car was being kept in a carport at a
duplex with another car blocking it in each night. After checking
this account for over a week we finally found the car there one night
not blocked in and repossessed it. The debtor redeemed the car the
next day. The following night another repossession company
repossessed this same car for this same lender. The lender had double
assigned the account and neglected to close the account with the
other company after we had repossessed it. I had learned about this
because I am good friends with the other company owner and he told me
the lender was not wanting to pay his repossession fee because we had
already repossessed the car earlier.
In this case, it was the debtor and
lender who suffered and no one was actually hurt. But if this
practice continues it will only be a matter of time before somebody
is. If you don't think your repossession agency is working your
accounts properly, find another agency. There are plenty of good ones
out there. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If your agent
isn't coming up with the vehicle and you want fresh eyes on the
account, by all means assign it to another agent but only after
you close it with the current agent.
And be sure to give the new agent all the information your first
agent found out.
is a dangerous profession. It takes a lot of skill, a lot of drive
and a lot of daring to do it right. We count on our clients to
understand this and help us keep our agents as safe as possible by
telling us everything about an account when they assign it (such as
if the debtor has threatened violence, if they have a known criminal
record, if someone else has worked the account previously and what
happened) and not to double assign the account. By working together
with our clients we can successfully resolve accounts and prevent
tragedies like the Tommy Morris incident from occurring.
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I've written on this topic twice before
and didn't think I would need to write about again. But as new
collectors come into this industry, old lessons are not always passed
on. So here's the lesson.
It's a little before 3:00am, very
quiet. A tow truck is idling up backwards into a driveway intending
to repossess a Ford truck. Suddenly the lights in the house come on
and a man runs outside. The repo driver, afraid for his life, drives
away and leaves the Ford behind. 15 minutes
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