Beaumont, TX – Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit laid down the hammer in its ruling against a debt collecting attorney and his firm. The Circuit Court affirmed a judgment in favor of a consumer debtor and overruled all Joseph Onwuteaka’s claims of error.
In November of 2014, Lone Star Legal Aid attorneys Tai Ho and Richard Tomlinson filed a Fair Debt Collections Practices Act lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against Samara Portfolio Management, Law Office of Joseph Onwuteaka and Joseph Onwuteaka for filing an action to collect upon a consumer debt in a distant forum; a violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692i.
Before filing this case, LSLA attorneys already had plenty of experience opposing Onwuteaka’s lawsuits. Onwuteaka, on behalf of Samara Portfolio Management, incessantly filed debt collection lawsuits in improper venues. 15 U.S.C. § 1692i of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states such lawsuits may only be filed in the judicial district or county where the consumer signed the contract for the debt they’re being sued on or in the judicial district or county where the consumer lives at the time of filing.
Onwuteaka appealed the U.S. District Court’s decision alleging that he was not a “debt collector,” that two statutory exemptions applied to him, that there was insufficient evidence of a covered “debt,” and therefore he should not be liable for any claims under the FDCPA. He has, however, filed nearly 2,000 cases against consumers on behalf of Samara in Houston, Texas and almost 900 of those were against consumers residing outside of Harris County. According to the 5th Circuit opinion issued on May 30, 2018, “so fecund a filer was he that the court even assigned Onwuteaka a ‘frequent filer’ number.”
Another appeal is ongoing regarding an award of $100,000 in attorneys’ fees in the original district court case.
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.
Media contact: Clarissa Ayala