“US Marshals arresting people for not paying their federal student loans” (P.S.: Really?)

[Note: updated Friday 9:30 a.m., an hour and a half after publication, after it became clear that the original reporting was gravely flawed] According to KRIV, “the US Marshals Service in Houston is arresting people for not paying their outstanding federal student loans. Paul Aker …says seven deputy US Marshals showed up at his home with guns and took him to federal court where he had to sign a payment plan for the [$1500] 29-year-old school loan. Congressman Gene Green says the federal government is now using private debt collectors to go after those who owe student loans. Green says as a result, those attorneys and debt collectors are getting judgments in federal court and asking judges to use the US Marshals Service to arrest those who have failed to pay their federal student loans.”

But see: Scott Riddle with plenty of evidence that KRIV’s version of the story omits material facts (h/t commenter Matthew: Aker “wasn’t arrested for the debt itself. He was arrested for evading service and failing to show up for mandatory court dates.”) As for the guns, the marshals’ office said it sent reinforcements when an attempt to arrest Aker failed and the situation escalated. As Riddle notes, the original report had spread rapidly around news outlets, but corrections and clarifications are often slow to catch up.


  • http://www.georgiabankruptcyblog.com/miscellaneous-cases/arrested-for-not-paying-student-loans-no-the-paul-aker-story-was-essentially-fabricated

    1. Aker owes more than what he claims.
    2. He wasn’t arrested for the debt itself. He was arrested for evading service and failing to show up for mandatory court dates.

  • I hadn’t followed this story too much; it was just too good to check.
    Excellent research Matt.
    After looking over your links, the real issue stood out. Sure, people who are trying to run from debts will not answer the phone or their door, provide false information, and generally give the collection folks the run around. But when 2 marshals are at your door, and you tell then you have a gun and retreat into your house, just what do you think is going to be the outcome? Mr. Akers needlessly opened up a whole world of hurt on his situation.

  • Thank you, Matt, for catching this, and especially for doing so so quickly. I’ve revamped the post to alert readers.

  • I’d already seen the report that Aker’s claim were largely fabricated elsewhere.

  • I think the original and incomplete version of the story got so much traction because it appealed to narratives being pushed by both sides of the political spectrum: the left’s “student loans are ruining people’s lives”, with a dose of “Law enforcement comes down too hard on minorities” and the right’s “Big government is abusing the little guy”.

    Since everybody already believed that such an event could occur, there was less skepticism of an outrageous claim as their should have been. While there may be elements of truth in the narratives, to abandon fact checking and seeking “the rest of the story” serves neither side, nor the journalistic profession well.