Guy arrested during student debt collection has to reimburse US Marshals $1,200 for his arrest

Last week, seven deputy US Marshals arrested
Paul Aker in Houston, Texas, after coming to his home to collect on a student loan from nearly 30 years ago.

The Marshals were trying to collect on a $1,500 loan from 1987, and now Aker has to pay $1,258 to reimburse the US Marshal for the cost of arresting him, according to court documents

Aker went on Fox to talk about the arrest, and the story went viral and drew shock and outrage. However, the US Marshals issued a statement to Business Insider on Wednesday implying the situation was more complicated than Aker let on.

In the statement first provided to The New York Times, the Marshals said Aker claimed “he had a gun” when they attempted to collect on his debt.

“After Aker made the statement that he was armed, in order to protect everyone involved, the deputies requested additional law enforcement assistance,” the statement read.

While that statement may explain why there were so many US Marshals present, the Marshals acknowledge they had a warrant for Aker’s arrest for failing to appear in court. 

To be clear, you usually can’t be arrested simply for failing to pay debt in America. The US banned debtors’ prisons in 1833, and the US Supreme Court ruled that they’re unconstitutional.

But the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has noted that lenders can obtain judgments against you if you fail to pay.

If “you ignore an order to appear in court, a judge may issue a warrant for your arrest,” the CFPB added. “You should never ignore a court order.”

Aker claims he received no certified mail or notices about the outstanding debt in the past 29 years. However, the US Marshals also said that they had been trying to collect on Aker’s debt since 2012 and had just discovered his Houston location.

We’ve reached out to Aker’s lawyer for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

Even after nearly 30 years, Aker still owes the federal government just a total of $2,709.47, including legal fees and interest on the original loan.

Default Judgment

The US Marshals are also apparently not done issuing arrests in Houston for unpaid federal student loans. The Marshals told The New York Times that 1,500 people in Houston have missed court appearances, and that has led to arrest warrants.

“There’s bound to be a better way to collect on a student loan debt that’s so old,” US Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) said on Fox.

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