Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This is why usury is a sin.

It was just before 6 a.m. on a Saturday in the fall of 2002, when Marie-Colette Dimanche woke to a loud rapping at the door of her Mattapan duplex. With her night robe on and her two daughters still sleeping, she rushed down the stairs and peered out the window.

Outside, a tow truck blocked her driveway and her 1996 Chevy Blazer. A man and a woman with a court order told the single mother they had come to take her car for nonpayment of an old credit card debt. With interest and legal fees, the bill totaled more than $2,000, and it came from a company called Commonwealth Receivables. They gave her a choice: Pay the money now, in cash, or hand over the keys.

Dimanche had never heard of Commonwealth and believed the debt had been paid by a social services agency. ''I just said, 'You guys must be insane,''' she recalled.

She had reason to be stunned: The debt was at least five years old. And she'd never gotten notice of the lawsuit against her: When Commonwealth, a local debt collector, went after Dimanche, the address it supplied the court was one where she hadn't lived for more than a decade.

But Dimanche didn't have the paperwork to prove the debt had been paid off, and she didn't have $2,000.

''What could I do?'' she said. ''I gave them the key.''

Props to Pandagon.