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Ford v. Bass and Associates

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

July 24, 2019

ANGELES FORD, Plaintiff,
v.
BASS AND ASSOCIATES; HELMS CAREER INSTITUTE, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MISCELLANEOUS MOTIONS

          TILMAN E. SELF, III, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Five motions are presently pending in the above-captioned case. As explained below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint [Doc. 7] and authorizes her to assert new claims against the present Defendants and add Educational Credit Management Corporation as a defendant. The Court also DENIES Defendant Helms Career Institute's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 5] and Motion for Hearing [Doc. 6] as moot and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Reply to Answer [Doc. 13] and Motion to Quash Subpoena [Doc. 14].

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In her original Complaint, pro se Plaintiff Angeles Ford cursorily alleged that Defendant Bass and Associates (“Bass”) and Defendant Helms Career Institute (“Helms”), violated 18 U.S.C. § 1028. See generally [Doc. 1]. That provision makes it a crime to, inter alia, “knowingly and without lawful authority produce[ ] an identification document, authentication feature, or a false identification document.” 18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(1). Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that Bass “put [her] in hardship since 2018 over a false document.” [Doc. 1, p. 4]. Plaintiff further alleged that she and Helms are citizens of Georgia, Bass is a citizen of Arizona, and the amount in controversy is $10, 438.02. [Id. at pp. 1-4]. On these facts, Plaintiff claimed subject-matter jurisdiction through both diversity and federal-question jurisdiction. [Id. at p. 3].

         Helms moved to dismiss the original Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). [Doc. 5]. Helms argued that 18 U.S.C. § 1028 cannot form the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and that there is not complete diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. [Id. at pp. 2-4]. Moreover, Helms argued that Plaintiff's failure to allege specific facts against Helms warranted dismissal for failure to state a claim. [Id. at pp. 4-6]. Helms requested that the Court dismiss the action or, in the alternative, order Plaintiff to file a more definite statement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). [Id. at p. 6].

         Nine days after Defendant moved to dismiss, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Complaint [Doc. 7], in which she seeks to add claims and a new party to the action. In the Motion, Plaintiff seemingly contends that non-party Educational Credit Management Corporation (“ECMC”) attempted to collect a debt against her in 2015 in connection with a falsified document signed in her name in 2007. [Doc. 7-3, pp. 2, 3]. Although she disputed the debt, Plaintiff had to file for bankruptcy in 2017, at which time the debt was discharged. [Id. at pp. 3-4]. In October 2018, the United States Department of Education and Helms, an educational entity, engaged Bass to collect another debt in connection with the allegedly false document, despite Plaintiff never attending Helms. [Id. at pp. 1, 3, 5]. The collection of this debt caused the Department of Education to garnish Plaintiff's federal tax refund. [Id. at p. 5].

         As a result of these actions, Plaintiff claims Defendants and ECMC, individually or jointly, violated several federal civil and criminal laws, including:

• The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e, 1692f-prohibiting debt collectors from using false, deceptive, misleading, unfair, or unconscionable representations or means in connection with the collection of a debt;
• The Consumer Financial Protection Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 5531(a) & (c), 5536- prohibiting consumer financial product providers from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts in connection with providing or offering financial products or services;
• The Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1091(a), 1094(a)-requiring, inter alia, that students who receive grants or loans from the federal government be enrolled in qualified education programs and prohibiting education institutions from providing students with loans in excess of the amount they are eligible to borrow;
18 U.S.C. § 1002-criminalizing knowing possession of falsified documents with intent to defraud the United States; and
18 U.S.C. § 1028(a), (c), & (d)-criminalizing falsification of identification documents.

[Id. at pp. 3, 5].

         Because of ECMC's alleged involvement arises from the same falsified document giving rise to Plaintiff's claims against Bass and Helms, Plaintiff also seeks leave under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 to join ECMC as a party to this case. [Id. at pp. 8-11]. For jurisdiction purposes, Plaintiff also clarifies in her Motion to Amend that she and Helms are citizens of Georgia, Bass is a citizen of Arizona, and ...


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