Getting at assets and telephone records after winning lawsuit?
April 8, 2007 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Lawsuitfilter: I've won a small claims lawsuit. They've failed to pay up. How do I find their telephone provider (and other details) so I can get at their assets? [MI]

Long story short: I take crooked furniture dealer (New York City) to court. I win, but they refuse to pay. I have to locate their assets before I call in the marshals. I can use information subpoenas on any business in NY to try to figure out where the furniture dealer keeps its money.

I know where the dealer does business. I know its telephone number. I know its website. I've located its website provider -- no problem there. I'd like to find out (a) who the dealer's telephone provider is so I can subpoena their billing records (b) who the dealer's landlord is, for the same reason (c) any other bright ideas you might have to help me figure out where the dealer keeps its money -- or any suggestions about how best to use information subpoenas.

With (a) in particular -- I've called up Verizon, but they won't tell me whether or not the number in question is provided by Verizon (or anyone else, for that matter.) How can I, given a number, figure out who's providing the service?

Thanks, hivemind!
posted by cgs06 to Law & Government (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I can use information subpoenas on any business in NY

Doesn't Verizon have offices in NY? Why haven't you subpoena'd them yet? In general, tell us more about your situation; I don't understand how you interacted with this business. Did you do everything online? How did you pay? Did they show up in court at all, or did you get a default? If they made an appearance, there must be some court documents that would enable you to find them and/or their lawyer. You can attach things other than cash, so if you can locate any office or warehouse or anything you can send the sheriff off to start picking stuff up.
posted by rkent at 12:28 PM on April 8, 2007

Sorry, poor reading comprehension skills on my part:

I know where the dealer does business. I know its telephone number.

OK, then, you can collect your judgment. I don't think you realize the extent of your power in this situation; you can send in the sherrif to take anything at all of theirs to be sold at a police auction to satisfy your judgment. You don't have to find the cash! Just walk in - with the sherrif, of course - flash your paperwork and start taking stuff. You can completely ruin their business if they don't comply. I'm guessing that as a (used?) furniture dealer their merchandise is not worth a whole lot at auction and so you could decimate their inventory (and their office supplies, and their vehicles, etc) by compelling a sale to fulfill your judgment. They are totally under your thumb! Quit worrying about the bank accounts and go over there and start talking tough and taking things.

Or, if you'd rather avoid the hassle, you can outsource the assholery by selling your judgment to a professional collector. They way it works is that you sell the judgment rights to them at a discount, they give you cash up front, and then they go do all the dirtywork in an effort to make good on the whole amount. Google "judgment collection new york"; I don't know of any firms but I'm sure this service is available.
posted by rkent at 12:41 PM on April 8, 2007

Or, if you'd rather avoid the hassle, you can outsource the assholery by selling your judgment to a professional collector.

If you're out for revenge, this is an excellent way to get it, because the collector will show no compunction about taking everything they can, from the plaques on the wall to the toilet paper in the bathroom. They'll take stuff that you might feel guilty about taking. It's beautiful.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:05 PM on April 8, 2007

I don't know anything about small claims in New York but when I won a small claims settlement in California, one of my options one the time to pay was up was to send a sheriff to their place of business who would sit there and collect every bit of income until the judgment + time for the sherriff was collected. Ultimately, I sent the guy a registered letter telling him that this was the option which I would be employing if he didn't pay by a certain date. Lo and behold I got a check Fed-ex on that very day.
posted by amanda at 1:16 PM on April 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far.

I'm more interested in extracting money than extracting revenge. I'm aware that I can seize property (and as a furniture showroom, they've got plenty to seize), but I want to avoid the hassle of seizure, storage, auction, and such. That's why I'm hoping to get at their liquid assets -- a bank account number or something like that. (I did my transactions with them via credit card, so I don't have an account number. I'll be calling the credit card agency to see whether I can get information that way.) If all else fails, though, I'll be sending the sherriff to grab their stuff.

Any other advice you might have (esp. for finding out account numbers) is much appreciated.
posted by cgs06 at 1:35 PM on April 8, 2007

As you said, you paid them by credit card. If you contact your credit card company, they should be able to tell you what bank the furniture store uses. Then just file the appropriate paperwork with the bank to place a lien on their account.
posted by zachlipton at 1:42 PM on April 8, 2007

Best answer: re: getting their phone provider -- if I recall correctly, when you do a reverse phone number search on, they tell you the provider of the phone number.

Good luck!
posted by greatgefilte at 1:43 PM on April 8, 2007

Best answer: Any other advice you might have

Ok, threaten to come down and take stuff or sell your account to a collections agency - reread amanda's post and the results she got. Spell it out for them that 1) if you force an auction, they will have multiplied their problem by a factor of 4 or 5 because of the auction discount on their shitty furniture, or 2) if you sell the judgment to a collections agent, he'll be completely ruthless and tear their place apart.

You have all the power here. Quit being picky, quit playing nice, and start making some threats. Call them or stop by their office, tell them you know your rights and can cause big, big problems for their business in one of the aforementioned ways. I would be astounded if they didn't pay up within a day or two. Look, you have a big stick here, but wielding it requires a bit of confrontation. You don't have to actually bash any heads, but you do have to get in their face verbally and stand up for yourself or else various utilities and financial institutions will wrap you up in red tape for months.
posted by rkent at 1:45 PM on April 8, 2007

I would be astounded if they didn't pay up within a day or two.

And don't give them more than a day or two, and preferably not more than a few hours: "You have until 3:00 p.m. today to pay me in cash before I loose the hordes of Hell on your ass. This is not negotiable". Furniture stores are notorious for upping and vanishing in the middle of the night. It's harder to collect money from a business that doesn't exist.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:17 PM on April 8, 2007

BTW, you wouldn't be taking the stuff and holding the auction. The sheriff would be the one doing it. They have these auctions all the time, and they'll just keep taking stuff and selling it until your debt (and their time) is satisfied.
posted by jaysus chris at 4:27 PM on April 8, 2007

Best answer: You don't have to have an account number. After getting my judgment, I made an educated guess where my debtor banked, and filed my garnishment papers at the nearest branch of that bank. A name and address was all that was needed for the bank to locate them. I understand (this may not be true, but it is what I understood from what a court clerk told me) that any expenses I incurred while garnisheeing, including expenses incurred because I guessed the wrong bank, would be charged to my debtor and added to the debt I could collect with my garnishment.
posted by pamccf at 5:14 PM on April 8, 2007

Do they have such a thing as a debtor exam in New York?
posted by pamccf at 5:37 PM on April 8, 2007

Would it be possible for the OP to get a credit report on the furniture dealer, possibly with a subpoena? Doesn't this list open accounts (savings, etc.)?

Just curious - if it would work, it could be handy.
posted by amtho at 6:55 PM on April 8, 2007

Like greatgefilte mentioned, any reverse lookup will tell you the phone provider. I use
posted by Hankins at 8:31 PM on April 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all. For some reason, I missed the provider on the reverse lookup sites.

I threatened to send the marshals on them and gave them a deadline, and they hung up on me, so I don't think more threats will help. I'll be sending out the subpoenas this week.

Pamccf: as best as I can tell, the information subpoena is equivalent to the debtor exam.

Thanks again -- and once this is all resolved (a few weeks, I hope) I'll post here in case anyone cares how it turns out.
posted by cgs06 at 8:42 PM on April 8, 2007

I threatened to send the marshals on them and gave them a deadline, and they hung up on me

If they'd done that to me, I'd be following up on my threat, not faffing about with subpoenas.
posted by flabdablet at 8:40 PM on April 9, 2007

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