DELAWARE — On Monday, December 12, María Martínez received a phone call from California where a man that identified himself as Luis Valdés of Acción Hispana asked her about her husband and told her they were looking for him because he owed more than $800 and “now he has an attorney trying to collect the money.”
Valdés gave her a phone number 213-784-4822 (which is registered as fraudulent, as it was later known), and asked that her husband call this number later, because if he did not pay right away the court and other costs, the sum would increase to more than $32,000. María is eight months pregnant and felt she was going to faint when she heard the dreadful news.
David Martínez, María’s husband, found that phone call awkward because “I don’t owe anybody anything, I don’t have a bad record” and he consulted with his pastor, who was in Oregon at the time and told him “Go home and see what’s going on.”
So he returned the phone call and talked to Luis Valdés, who told him he worked at the Hispanic Association, “We help Hispanics,” he said and David asked him with what? Valdés told him: “You received a package (supposedly from Herbalife) on this date and you haven’t paid for it.”
David said: “A package of what?” And Valdés replied in a high tone “We don’t have much time to explain to you because you know pretty well what was it that you ordered.” “But I didn’t order anything,” said David. “Well, if you’re going to continue with this attitude, we will put you in the computer system right away, so the whole police department goes to Georgetown or Milton where you live. Police are going to be there shortly to take all of your things, all of your belongings. This is going to cost you,” he said. “If in 20 minutes, you don’t pay $897 you are going to be in trouble, because it says here that another representative talked to a certain mister,” who turned out to be David’s cousin.
Of course David tried to talk to his cousin but he couldn’t and he thought that it was better for him to avoid any problems. “I better pay this and that’s it. I had to borrow money,” he added, “because I didn’t have means to pay this money, and well, we were settled.”
“But the day after I went to work at Bethany,” tells David, “and around noon they called me again at home saying that I didn’t pay the fine of $400 something.” Mrs. Martínez told them they had already paid them what they asked for and then they started to scold her and tell her that she didn’t understand a thing and told her to have her husband call them back.
David returned the call and they told him that if he didn’t pay that $473, the California judge was going to arrest him and “you are going to have problems with immigration and they will take you to court and they will throw you in jail for a month or two.” Meanwhile David told him there was no proof that he owed that money and they answered that they had already sent many documents and “you have never wanted to respond.”
Martínez assures he never received any document regarding the alleged package that had been sent to him and remembers that during his first conversation with Valdés he was told that if he paid the first $800, they would send him a CD with proof of them having sent the package with dates and everything, so that he could figure out how things were, or if someone had bought that on his behalf. “That way you will know who is the person betraying you,” they said.
These proofs never came, although they said they were already at UPS and that he would have to pay the $473 anyway to be able to withdraw the court charges and be debt-free.
David started thinking that he had already sent $950 including delivery charges and on Tuesday he borrowed $490 more to send, and that after three days they called again and asked him to send another $625 threatening him again with jail, so it was then when David thought that this was too much money and he decided to get help…