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May 2014

Can a Debt Collector Call Itself “Law Enforcement Systems”?

Posted by / in Blog, Weekly Posts / 20 comments

I think it’s an FDCPA violation for a debt collector to call itself Law Enforcement Systems.

Couple years ago, one of my bankruptcy clients brought me a bill from an outfit called Law Enforcement Systems.

Law Enforcement Systems is a debt collector for the 495 express lanes.

Law Enforcement Systems is a debt collector for Transurban, the operator of the 495 express lanes.

The bill was for $100.65. That’s 65 cents for a toll they say she didn’t pay. And $100.00, that’s apparently an administrative fee. This happened on the 495 Express Lanes, privately financed toll lanes on the Virginia side of the Washington beltway.

I said, “that’s a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  (FDCPA)”

The FDCPA makes it a Federal violation for a debt collector to make an “implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person.” That’s at 15 USC 1692e(4) Calling themselves Law Enforcement Systems is certainly an “implication” that you can be arrested if you don’t pay up.  And the penalty for that violation is up to $1000. It’s payable to you, the consumer!

The FDCPA only applies to debt collectors, not original creditors. Law Enforcement Systems is collecting for the company that operates the toll lanes, so that’s clearly covered.  The toll lane operator is Transurban (USA) Operations, Inc.

It has to be for a “consumer debt.” That’s a debt for “personal, family, or household purposes.”  Now a traffic ticket might not be for “personal, family, or household purposes”–but the toll is. She was driving her car to get to work. Getting to work is a personal purpose.

Alexandria Federal Judge James Cacheris agrees with me on this.  At least if you had an E-ZPass account, the toll is a consumer debt.  Judge Cacheris said, “Plaintiffs have not in fact committed a toll infraction, but rather Transurban has simply neglected to collect the toll at the moment of entry.”  Brown v Transurban.

I took a look at Code of Virginia § 33.1-56.3.  It makes it clear that not paying a toll is NOT a “violation.” It’s NOT a violation as long as you “made arrangements…for payment.”  I think that’s why Judge Cascheris says it’s a consumer debt, as long as you had an E-ZPass.

What I did. Why I’ve stopped.

In the 2014 and 2015, I’ve helped about a dozen people to claim their rights are under Federal law.  With the class action pending in Alexandria, there didn’t seem to be room for me to do any more. I had to stop. At least for now.

TransUrban Settles Class Action. Lots of people have griped about the $100 fee that gets added to the tolls–and I’ve said I didn’t know how to fight it.  Some lawyer in Alexandria and DC did go after them in a class action, and won $10.00.  That’s $10.00 for each person who paid the $100.00 fee–more if you paid over $300.00.  Up to a total of $1,350,000.00.  TransUrban also promised to be more fair in the future.

That illustrates why some people like class actions and some people don’t.  One one hand TransUrban promised to be nicer in the future.  On the other hand, what’s the point of a ten dollar settlement?

I should say I thought it was impossible, but they won.  The Washington Post wrote about it, here.  Here’s more of what Judge Cacheris decided.

If it looks like the problem continues into 2017, I may come back to this. I don’t think the issue with Law Enforcement Systems is complete resolved.   

PS  Here’s a copy of my fee agreement. It explains, as clearly as a lawyer can explain, I only get paid by them, if we sue and win. Never by you.  LES FDCPA Agreement.  And here’s an Example of a collection letter from Law Enforcement Systems, that I think is an FDCPA violation.  

PPS  It look to me like the Law Enforcement Systems letter also violates 15 USC §1692g.   The right to dispute does not have to be in writing.  (LES says “in writing.) And if there is a written dispute, the debt collector “will obtain verification.”  That’s completely missing.




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Robert Weed has helped fifteen thousand people file bankruptcy in Northern Virginia. Robert Weed is a frequent panelist and speaker at the meetings of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. He is one of Northern Virginia’s most experienced personal bankruptcy lawyers. As an expert on changing consumer bankruptcy laws, Robert Weed has been interviewed on local and national TV and quoted in newspapers across the country.

  • Michael Smith

    May 30, 2014, pm31 2:49 PM

    Please keep us posted. They illegally garnished my tax return for a ticket on a car that I never owned! I will cooperate and help in any way I can to snag these scum bags!

    • Robert Weed

      May 30, 2014, pm31 2:50 PM


      Thanks for letting me know!

    • Michael Smith

      May 30, 2014, pm31 3:18 PM

      Just to add to it, I was never contacted and the first I heard about it was a letter from the State Franchise Tax Board (CA) stating that funds were intercepted.

  • shaun sullivan

    August 12, 2014, pm31 6:08 PM

    Robert, any news on the 495 express lane issue? I’m going thru the same situation as we speak. Bank of America had some fraud issues internally and cancelled our current card , replacing it with a new one. never received notice on our express lane account and now they’re hitting me for $4,000 in fines!

    any updates or news would be beneficial as we def plan on fighting this.

    thank you

    • Robert Weed

      August 13, 2014, am31 10:28 AM


      I’m going after them for calling themselves Law Enforcement Systems. But that’s as far as I have qualifications. Don’t know how to fight them on the “fines.”

  • Raymond Foster

    September 22, 2014, pm30 11:21 PM

    I received a bill in the mail for an unpaid toll last summer on the Beltway and paid it by check. I have the cancelled check that shows it cleared the bank on August 4 (it was due before September 4). In September I got a bill from Law Enforcement Systems claiming that I did not pay the fine and demanding $100.70. I sent them a copy of the canceled check and they told me that it ‘doesn’t matter’ that I paid the fine already that ‘since it has gone to collection I am still liable’. Is that correct? What recourse do I have to avoid having to pay this twice?

    • Robert Weed

      September 23, 2014, pm30 8:51 PM


      They have at least one FDCPA violation and maybe two. I’d like to talk to you personally about suing them. Think over whether you are up for that and come in to talk to me about it.

  • Jay Martinez

    September 30, 2014, am30 5:00 AM

    I received an invoice from Law Enforcement Systems. LLC for the amount of $106.70
    I called them and spoke to someone called Chris, operator ID CEW to inquire about the supposed violation and he said it is for ” uninvoiced tolls” .i asked him to give me a detailed break down of the times the violations occurred, he said he couldn’t because these are ” uninvoiced tolls. When I told him I was recording the call he got nervous and put me on hold for some time.
    Finally he said he would have his supervisor call me. and hung up on me. I am not sure if these people are legit , they got me once for $150.00. To me they are just fishing to see who pays without asking details.

    • Robert Weed

      September 30, 2014, am30 10:36 AM


      Thanks for sharing. Are you in Virginia?

  • Robert Taylor

    October 10, 2014, pm31 9:19 PM


    I am in Virginia, and I received one of these from LES. I had previously received a notice of toll due directly from 495 Express Lanes, and had actually paid that one. This one, allegedly, is for a different trip. I never received any notice of this “second” one until it popped up on my credit report. My credit is not ‘bad” but it is borderline, so this is really screwing up my life as we had been preparing to refinance my house. TransUnion won’t withdraw the entry, and LES refused to send me any proof or invoice or anything, saying that they “had already done so.” They also refused to agree to a “pay for removal of credit report entry” deal. (I really just want the thing UN-reported byt his point. I entered a dispute on TransUnion but am not confident of the outcome. How can I prove a negative? I went ahead and paid the toll and admin fee ($101) earlier this week thinking I could at least get it shown as “paid”, but LES is not even correcting that. Any way I can force them to remove the entry?

    • Robert Weed

      October 10, 2014, pm31 9:28 PM


      I’m suing them, but not for the reason you are mad. Go to NACA http://www.naca.net/find-attorney and look for a Fair Credit Reporting lawyer in Northern VA.

    • Robert Weed

      October 10, 2014, pm31 9:31 PM


      It is a help for what I’m doing that they put their entry on your credit report which is supposed to be your Consumer credit report. In my case, they will argue that tolls are not a consumer debt, but they coudn’t hit your credit report without saying that they are consumer debts.

      So thanks for sharing that. I know a little about credit reporting–a lot of a bankruptcy lawyer–but that’s not the main thing I do.

  • RJ

    December 2, 2014, pm31 8:41 PM


    Perhaps also not your issue, but LES did not respond to my two letters arguing that their added fees were in violation of the FDFCRA. My new issue though is with Transurban as they coerced me into settling my 14 dollars of tolls for 638 dollars. I agreed and made payment. They never informed the courts and I now have a suspended drivers license. I called them and notified them multiple times that the courts had not received notice of my payment and they did nothing. Its been 12 days since my license has been suspended and they have still done nothing despite multiple emails and phone calls from me. I have requested to speak to management and nothing has happened. They have admitted fault but keep telling me they are “working” on getting my license restored. I am interested in possibly suing for damanges.


    • Robert Weed

      December 2, 2014, pm31 10:15 PM


      I’m mainly a bankruptcy guy and got interested in this Law Enforcement Systems as an FDCPA issue. Lots of bankruptcy clients have FDCPA issues, so for a bankruptcy lawyer, I’m pretty good at that.

      On your issue, I have no qualifications. My guess is the lawyers who do car accidents would be more qualified than me to apply their legal thinking to your problem. Good luck.

  • Jay

    May 18, 2015, pm31 6:02 PM

    I just got a debt that was posted by Law Enforcement Systems on my credit report for $101 for a .55 cent toll from August 2014. The name of the company is definitely an attempt to make you think they can arrest or imprision you if you don’t pay. This is an abusive fee for a frequent customer of the Express Lanes.

    • Robert Weed

      May 18, 2015, pm31 6:38 PM


      Are you in Virginia? I’d like to talk to you about trying to get them to pay YOU $1000, because they violated the FDCPA.

  • Alejandro Calvo

    September 4, 2015, pm30 4:46 PM

    I been fighting with this agency for over 5 months now trying to settle a debt. I submitted files and all and it seems to have gone no where. I feel they are trying to take advantage of people by calling themselves Law Enforcement Systems and charging absorbs fees.

    • Robert Weed

      September 4, 2015, pm30 5:19 PM


      I AGREE!

      Contact me directly to talk about suing them for $1000 under the FDCPA. [email protected]

  • Robin

    January 29, 2016, pm31 4:24 PM

    I was given a violation for being on a toll road, but the picture that was sent only shows the back of a car. It doesn’t clearly show the license plate. The violation was also sent to the wrong address and I could not dispute it in the proper time. Therefore it went to collections. I was told I could dispute it. They denied my dispute but didn’t write me. I only found out that they denied my dispute because I received a letter about having to pay the fine or it will go to collections. I have asked 495 Express Lanes to take this debt back since they didn’t sell it to Law Enforcement. They just referred it to them. Was I right to ask them that. I also told them I had proof of my correct address but they didn’t say anything. What else can I do?

    • Robert Weed

      January 29, 2016, pm31 4:28 PM


      Sorry I’m NOT an expert on this whole problem–only one piece of it. The only thing I know is that it’s (probably) a violation for them to call themselves Law Enforcement Systems and that they (probably) owe you $1000 for threatening you that way. I’m a bankruptcy guy mainly and for a bankruptcy lawyer I know a lot about the FDCPA. If you want to see if we can make them pay you, contact me directly. If you want to fight what they are after you for, you need to try a traffic lawyer.

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