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Former nursing home agrees to settlement

September 07, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A defunct Washington County nursing home will pay penalties to settle allegations it improperly tried to collect money from patients' families.

The settlement announced Thursday by the Maryland attorney general's office also applies to a California debt-collection business the nursing home hired.

Clearview Nursing Home on Downsville Pike and CollectAssure Inc. of San Diego will each pay a $5,000 civil penalty and $1,000 to cover state costs, the settlement says.

The attorney general's office alleged that Clearview - which the state shut down in 2005 because of concerns about residents' health and safety - "sought to collect debts from residents and their families that were not owed ...."

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Both companies denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to refund what was collected, according to the attorney general's office.

Maryland residents Kailash and Anita Chopra, listed in the settlement as Clearview's owners, couldn't be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

When Clearview hired CollectAssure over the Internet in March 2006 to collect money, CollectAssure didn't know the nursing home had been shut down, said Richard Rawlings, an administrative assistant for the debt-collection company.

"We were caught off guard completely," he said.

Asked to collect about $100,000 in debts, CollectAssure tried for about a month, then stopped because of an unusually high number of protests from residents' families, he said.

Rawlings estimated that his business contacted about 20 families and collected about $7,000 or $8,000 - all of which it returned when it heard from the attorney general's office.

Philip Ziperman, an assistant attorney general who worked on the settlement, said his office can't be sure yet how much money was collected or how many families were affected.

Clearview must hand over data about the collections within 60 days of Sept. 4, when the attorney general's office signed the settlement agreement.

The attorney general's office also alleged Clearview used "aggressive tactics" to collect money and that CollectAssure, which wasn't licensed to collect money in Maryland, used "abusive" methods.

Rawlings said CollectAssure followed debt-collection laws. He added that some people get upset when told their credit report will be affected.

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