It might seem odd in an era defined by stagnant wages and rising income inequality for the long arm of the law to be cuffing Americans who default on their federal student loans. But according to reports out of Texas, that's exactly what's happening.
Paul Aker, 48, tells the New York Daily News and a local Fox broadcast affiliate that a coterie of heavily armed US Marshals showed up at his door in Houston last Thursday. His alleged crime? Failing to pay Uncle Sam back for a $1,500 student loan he took out to attend Prairie View A&M in 1987, he claims.
"I say, 'What is this all about?'" he told the Daily News. "They say, 'Shut up, you know what this is all about.' I don't have a clue."
Marshals apparently later suggested in court their automatic weapons were a safety precaution, and that they had concerns Aker might be armed—which he denies. A local congressman, Democrat Gene Green, told Fox 26 Aker's episode is just the beginning of a broad push by the feds to shop out loans to private debt collectors, who then request help from judges—and the US Marshals.
The outlet cited a source in the Houston US Marshals office indicating as many as 1,500 more warrants could be coming soon. That's pretty terrifying given that most previous reporting—including from our resident personal finance sage Allie Conti—suggested actually getting arrested over your loans is virtually unheard of. (More likely, experts tend to agree, is seeing your wages garnished.)
Aker, meanwhile, says he was ordered to pay $5,700, as well as almost $1,300 more for the cost of his detainment. Failure to do so, he claims, could result in another arrest.