United States District Court, D. Maryland
JONATHAN T. ALSTON Plaintiff, pro se
ORION PORTFOLIO SERVICES, LLC, et al. Defendants.
J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Jonathan Alston has sued Orion Portfolio Services,
LLC (“Orion”) and Trident Asset Management, LLC
(“Trident”) (hereinafter, collectively
“Defendants”) in connection with a debt he
purportedly owed to Verizon Communications
(“Verizon”) for unreturned television equipment
and associated fees. Alston claims that Orion, which he says
purchased the debt from Verizon, and Trident, which he says
sought to collect the debt on behalf of Orion, attempted to
collect the $1, 391 debt in violation of the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act (the “FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692, et seq.
have moved for dismissal of the remaining counts in
Alston's Amended Complaint, as well as for sanctions. ECF
No. 67. Alston opposes the Motion and has filed a Motion to
Reconsider the Court's Order (ECF No. 58) denying his
earlier Motion to Reconsider. ECF No. 73. For the following
reasons, the Court will DENY Plaintiff's Motion to
Reconsider, ECF No. 73, and GRANT Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss and Motion for Sanctions, ECF No. 67.
Court has recited the facts of this case in two prior
Memorandum Opinions, ECF Nos. 15, 51, but believes they
should be recounted again for context.
states in his Amended Complaint that he obtained a credit
report from Trans Union and discovered a collection account
reported by Trident that indicated that he owed $1, 391 to
Verizon for utility services. Amended Complaint
(“AC”) ¶¶ 5-6, ECF No. 19. Alston says
he disputed the Trident collection account with Trans Union
in a letter dated June 11, 2016. Id. ¶ 10. On
July 12, 2016, Trans Union allegedly issued its investigation
results, advising Alston that Trident had verified the
account and determined that no changes to the report were
appropriate, indicating it found no notation that the amount
was in dispute. Id. ¶ 11.
August 22, 2016, Alston again purportedly contacted Trident,
this time by phone, to dispute the debt. Id. ¶
12. He says he was told that Trident would send him a letter
providing a breakdown of how the $1, 391 was calculated and
advising him of his right to request validation and/or
verification of the debt. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.
Alston was further supposedly told that Trident had not sent
him a letter after it acquired the Verizon debt because
Trident's policy was to contact debtors by phone, not by
mail, and Trident did not have a phone No. for Alston on
file. Id. ¶ 15.
says he called Trident yet again on August 25, 2016.
Id. ¶ 16. He says he was advised at that time
that Orion had purchased the debt from Verizon and that
Trident was collecting the debt on behalf of Orion.
Id. ¶ 17. Alston also says he was told that the
debt was considered “disputed” as of August 22,
2016 and that Trident had reported information regarding the
debt to credit reporting agencies (such as Trans Union) on
the 23rd of every month. Id. ¶¶
August 26, 2016, Alston received correspondence from Trident,
which informed him of his right to dispute the validity of
the debt within 30 days of receiving the notice, but the
notice still requested that he send a $1, 390.81 payment to
Trident's address. Id. ¶¶ 22-23.
Either during one of his alleged phone calls with Trident or
in this letter, Alston says he was informed that the $1,
390.81 debt stemmed from unreturned Verizon FIOS TV equipment
($742.00) and from past due charges ($648.81). See
Id. ¶ 29.
goes on to say that on August 29, 2016, he sent a dispute
letter to Trans Union, challenging the claim. Id.
¶ 26. He also says he sent a letter directly to Trident.
Id. ¶ 27. The letters purportedly disputed the
fact that Trident or Orion acquired the account from Verizon,
or that $1, 390.81 was owed on the account, or that Alston
owed $742.00 for FIOS TV equipment and $648.81 for past due
charges. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Even so, says
Alston, Trident continued its debt collection activity and
reported the debt to Trans Union prior to providing Alston
with validation of the debt. Id. ¶ 32.
to Alston, on September 12, 2016, Trans Union issued its
investigation results, finding once again that Trident had
verified the amount of the debt, and indicating once again
that no changes would be made as to how the debt would be
reported, and indicating once again that it found no notation
that the collection account was disputed. Id. ¶
33 Alston thereafter filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court
for Prince George's County, ECF No. 2, which Defendants
removed to this Court in timely fashion. ECF No. 1. On
November 22, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss
Counts I and II of the Complaint on the grounds that Alston
had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be
granted. ECF No. 9. The Court granted Defendants' Motion
and dismissed the two Counts, but did so without prejudice,
granting Alston leave to file an amended complaint. ECF No.
lengthy footnote, the Court also directed Alston to file an
affidavit establishing that the case was brought in good
faith. ECF No. 15 at 1 n.1. The footnote observed that the
case was one of dozens of suits alleging violations of fair
debt collection laws brought by members of the Alston family,
all of whom claimed to reside at 10012 Cedarhollow Lane,
Largo, MD 20774. Id. The footnote also noted that
Plaintiff's brother, Thomas Alston, a non-attorney who
also invokes the Cedarhollow Lane address, has been both a
plaintiff in many of these lawsuits as well as the de facto
author of several of them. Id. Thomas Alston
advertises legal services on LinkedIn, including his claim of
work on debt collection cases, despite not being an attorney
barred in any jurisdiction. Given the similarities between
the present suit and many others brought in this and other
courthouses by members of the Alston family, the Court
directed the current Plaintiff Jonathan Alston to declare,
under oath, among other things, (a) whether he in fact
resides at 10012 Cedarhollow Lane, Largo, MD 20774, (b) what
his other residences are, and (c) whether Thomas Alston in
any way assisted him in the preparation or filing of the
present suit. The Court also directed Plaintiff to “set
forth the names of every individual (including, but not
limited to Thomas Alston) or entity that has provided him
with any advice, documents, or pleadings in connection with
the present lawsuit.” Id.
March 20, 2017, Alston filed an affidavit. In it, he disputes
that the LinkedIn profile about Thomas Alston was written by
Thomas Alston. Pl. Aff. ¶ 15, ECF No. 17-3. He also
states that he talks “generally to [his] family
including Thomas Alston about the law and in particular the
federal statutes such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act
[“FCRA”] and Federal Debt Collection Practices
Act, ” but that they do not talk about “the
specifics of a particular case, ” and that he primarily
uses PACER and the National Consumer Law Center to assist him
in drafting his pleadings. Id. ¶¶ 16-17,
19 (emphasis in original). Jonathan Alston affirmed that he
has not kept “a mental record of whether [he] received
any particular advice, documents or pleadings from Thomas
Alston or any other person or source other than PACER or the
National Consumer Law Center.” Id. ¶ 20.
Finally, Jonathan Alston noted that he has three addresses,
including the 10012 Cedarhollow Lane, Largo, MD 20774
address, that he regularly uses. Id. ¶ 1-4. He
stated that he could not affirm how he divides his time
between the homes but said that he spends most of his time at
a different residence. Id. ¶¶ 6-7.
addition to filing his affidavit, Alston also filed an
Amended Complaint, which closely parallels ...