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Erie judge: Ex-debt collector must pay $522,780
[November 09, 2012]

Erie judge: Ex-debt collector must pay $522,780

Nov 09, 2012 (Erie Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- An Erie County judge has ordered the president of now-defunct debt collector Unicredit America Inc. to pay $522,780 in fines and costs to penalize Unicredit for operating a fake courtroom and using other unfair trade practices to intimidate debtors.

The amount covers $348,500 in fines and $174,280 in legal fees due the state Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted the case. An earlier story on the fines and costs did not include the legal fees.

Whether the president, Michael J. Covatto, can pay the money to the state remains in doubt. He filed for bankruptcy in 2011, and Unicredit, which also is named in the judgment, also has limited assets, according to court records.

Senior Erie County Judge John A. Bozza ordered the judgment on Wednesday. He ruled based on evidence the state Attorney General's Office presented at a hearing in September.

The Attorney General's Office sued Covatto and Unicredit in October 2010 over claims of unfair trade practices. The suit led Erie County Judge Michael E. Dunlavey to close Unicredit in November 2010, and the Attorney General's Office since then has sought fines and costs from Covatto, 51, of Millcreek Township.

The Attorney General's Office wanted Covatto to pay because of his role running Unicredit, whose fake courtroom had been located on West 39th Street near Greengarden Boulevard. State investigators also said Unicredit used questionable subpoenas and other tactics to pressure debtors into paying.

Covatto did not present a defense, which allowed the Attorney General's Office to get a default judgment against him in July. Bozza had to determine the amount of the judgment.

See Saturday's Erie Times-News and for more coverage.

___ (c)2012 the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.) Visit the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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