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COUNCIL SEEKS PROBE OF CITY'S COLLECTION AGENCY LOTEMPIO SAYS FIRM HARASSED ELDERLY WOMAN WITH THREATS OF FORECLOSURE

Amana Capital Corp. collected some $8 million in bad debts for Buffalo before its contract ran out Sept. 1, but now some officials want a state investigation of the collection agency's tactics.

Common Council members voted Tuesday to ask state Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco to step in after a South Buffalo senior citizen complained that Amana harassed her into paying a $600 water bill by threatening to foreclose on her property.

When the woman failed to come up with the money, Amana took its claim to her mortgage lender to pay the debt, according to Common Council Majority Leader Rosemary LoTempio, who sponsored the request to Vacco.

"Now she's paying $200 more a month in house payments . . . I'm concerned that they (Amana officials) are beefing up their collection efforts, and I still have concerns about their tactics in the past," Mrs. LoTempio said.

She declined to identify the woman but said she has asked other Council members to collect any complaints they may be receiving about Amana.

"We've all gotten calls," she said.

City water and sewer officials notified Amana recently that its contract with the city would be void after Sept. 1. However, the company takes the position that it has 30 more days to complete its collections, Mrs. LoTempio said.

According to Mrs. LoTempio, there are other questionable cases, and she says she and others distrust the company because of its past problems.

Amana President Lawrence Meyers said his company abides by all the rules and regulations governing collection agencies. He also said that Amana has collected at least $15 million in bad debts for the city -- more than the $8 million city officials credit it for -- since his company was first hired in 1990.

Meyers also noted that his company's contract with the city is nearly over.

"We'll go peacefully into the night," said Meyers. "We're proud of the work we've done. Mrs. LoTempio should thank us."

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