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Title loan company reportedly refuses to accept payment on behalf of hospitalized veteran

Posted at 6:03 PM, Oct 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-25 22:34:25-04

The family of an Army veteran and officials from the Summit Co. Veterans Service Commission said LoanMax, an Akron car title loan company, has refused to accept a lump sum loan payment on behalf of the veteran who remains in the hospital after suffering numerous strokes.

Because of the company’s reported refusal to accept the final loan payment, the veteran’s family is concerned that the outstanding loan balance will continue to accrue additional interest and fees.

Gibson ‘Gib’ McMaster III, a veteran of the United States Army, suffered as many as eight strokes earlier this month, his family said. McMaster also has two holes in his heart, which have complicated his recovery and rehabilitation. The situation revolving around his outstanding title loan has only brought further grief on McMaster and his family.

“Stress, a lot of stress. It’s a very stressful situation on everybody. Of course, in Gib fashion, he’s worried about the stress that it is causing for [his girlfriend] and her heart and how we’re operating at home without him,” said Kelly Doolittle, the sister of McMaster’s longtime girlfriend.

Amid financial hardship in September 2017, McMaster took out a title loan on his vehicle from LoanMax, a consumer lending company that has dozens of storefronts across Ohio. According to state business filings, LoanMax is doing business as a Georgia-based company, Drummond Financial Services. McMaster’s title loan was for $515, which he used to make repairs to his family’s van — their only vehicle, according to loan documents.

Loan documents provided to News 5 show the annual percentage rate on the $515 loan was a whopping 329.82 percent, bringing the total payment over the life of the loan to $1,213.05, nearly three times the amount lent to McMaster. According to the loan documents, McMaster was given $500 plus a $15 fee for the lien on the title.

Then came the other fees.

A total of $592.25 would go toward a credit service organization (CSO) fee paid to Drummond Financial Services, records show. There was also a $15 loan origination fee, bringing the principal amount of the loan to $1,122.25.

Over the next six months, McMaster faithfully paid on the loan every month, his family said. Then, in February 2018, McMaster thought he was nearing the end of the payments when LoanMax notified him that he had not paid down the principal on the loan — only the interest and fees, his family said. Because he still had an outstanding balance, he renewed the loan for another six months, which incurred an additional $100 fee, according to loan documents.

“Their payment is over $200 a month for a $515 loan,” Doolittle said. The total current cost of the loan, if paid in full, would be nearly $2,500.

Then, in early October, McMaster began to not feel well and his health quickly deteriorated.

“He’s had eight strokes and he has two holes in his heart,” Doolittle said. “[Doctors] are trying to get him stabilized from the strokes so they can see if they can repair the holes in his heart.”

Knowing McMaster still had the remaining title loan balance to pay down, Doolittle sought the assistance of the Summit Co. Veterans Service Commission. Every county in the State of Ohio has a veterans service commission. The Summit Co. commission then quickly approved of providing $1241 to help McMaster pay down the rest of the title loan.

“We took the paperwork from Summit County, from veterans services, with a stamp on it, an official stamp. We took it down there and [LoanMax employees] said they had never seen this before,” Doolittle said. “They didn’t think it was a real place and refused to fill out the paperwork. Whether you are in the service or not if you are going to pay off that loan and you have the cash in hand, it’s a valid check from anyone, you should be able to pay it off.”

Officials from the Summit Co. Veterans Service Commission then became directly involved, securing additional paperwork from the Veterans Administration (VA) as well as additional official documents from county government. However, LoanMax employees would still not budge, refusing to accept the paperwork as well as payment.

“It’s money that is being taken in to pay off that loan so I have not a clue as to why they won’t accept it except for the fact that they want to keep collecting interest that is over 300 percent,” Doolittle said. “Personally that’s why I think they are refusing to take the balance and let them pay the loan off because they are trying to force them into another six months of payments.”

News 5 tried stopping by LoanMax’s location on South Arlington Street. However, an employee stated that her manager was off and instead deferred to the area manager. As of Thursday evening, the area manager had not returned requests for comment. Larry Moore, the director of the Summit Co. Veterans Service Commission, told News 5 that his office received a call from a manager at LoanMax who had offered to send over the necessary paperwork in order to get the loan paid off. Moore said the manager also said the amount due on the loan was less than what Doolittle was informed of.

However, as of Thursday evening, the loan balance has yet to be paid in full.

“It shouldn’t matter whether I wrote that check, you wrote that check or an agency wrote that check, the check is there with the finances to pay off that loan to the veteran who is laying the hospital,” Doolittle said. “They refused to take it.”

According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, LoanMax has been the subject of more than 275 consumer complaints since 2013.