Seven U.S. Marshals armed with automatic weapons appeared at Paul Aker’s home in Houston, Texas, last week and arrested him for not paying his $1,500 student loan debt, which he received in 1987.
Aker said he was surprised upon seeing the U.S. Marshals at his home. “It was totally mind-boggling,” the man said. “I was wondering, why are you here? I am home, I haven’t done anything… Why are the marshals knocking on my door? It’s amazing.”
He told the Daily News on Tuesday that the men grabbed him and threw him down while the local PD just stood there.
Aker said he was taken to federal court afterwards and was told that he had been arrested because of his outstanding student debt loan. According to him, he did not receive any letter of warning about the loan dating back to 1987 at Prairie View A&M University.
He said he spotted a suspicious truck parked outside of his house on Thursday morning, and when an agent approached him, he retreated back into his house in fear. Soon after, seven armed U.S. Marshals appeared at his door.
The U.S. Marshals later told the court they were armed because Aker had a gun. According to Aker’s story, he was put in a cell at the federal building in downtown Houston. Afterwards, he was brought to court, where a county clerk, judge, and a prosecutor – who, according to him was actually a collection lawyer – were in attendance.
Paul Aker of Houston Recounts His Arrest for Unpaid Student Loan Debt
Aker was reportedly asked to pay a sum of $5,700 for the student loan debt, including interest, and another $1,300 to pay for the morning arrest. He was allegedly told that he will be arrested again if he fails to pay the said amount by March 1.
Texas representative Gene Green was worried that U.S. Marshals are being used to collect old student loans. “There’s bound to be a better way to collect on a student loan debt that is so old,” he told Fox 26.
However, according to the U.S. Marshals who arrested Aker, they did not arrest him for failing to pay his outstanding student loan debt alone, but for disobeying a court order as well.
According to Yahoo Finance and documents from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Aker was sued by the federal government for nonpayment of over $2,600 in unpaid student loan debt in November 2007. The court record suggests that Aker failed to appear in court to answer the lawsuit, and the presiding judge ruled against him and decided that he must pay the full balance on April 17, 2007.
A statement from the U.S. Marshals Service alleged that Aker refused to appear in court after being contacted many times. The judge then issued a warrant of arrest for disobeying court order.
Describing the arrest, the Marshals said Aker “resisted arrest and retreated back into his home” when the agents approached him. According to them, Aker told them that he was armed, so the agents requested additional law enforcement assistance.
According to Yahoo Finance, Aker was immediately released and was not jailed.
The U.S. Marshals are reportedly planning to issue warrants on 1,000 to 1,500 people for student loan debts.
Graduates of 2015 are facing an average debt of $35,000, as reported by student finance advice site Edvisors. An estimated 40 million Americans have outstanding student loans.
Meanwhile, students and graduates are organizing a series of meetings on the Capitol calling for immediate action over rising student debt. Several for-profit colleges will gather on Wednesday in a protest that aims to fight student debt.
[Image by David McNew, Getty Images]