U.S. marshals arrest student loan debtors in Twin Cities

Rocky Thompson

U.S. marshals began arresting federal student loan debtors in the Twin Cities area Thursday and planned to issue more warrants today.

Named “Operation Anaconda Squeeze” by the U.S. Marshals Service, the arrests are the final stage in the process of getting federal debtors to provide information about their employment and wages.

The government asks debtors to pay their loans or provide financial information, and if those requests go unanswered, a court orders the debtors to appear before magistrate judges with the information.

If a debtor does not show up for court, the judge can issue an arrest warrant.

Jim Kennedy, Office of Student Finance senior associate director, said the University will work around financial problems with former students unable to meet loan payments.

Since the University itself does not issue federal loans, it has no power beyond normal financial institutions.

“Here, we try to work with students as long as they try to make arrangements,” Kennedy said.

He said many of the student loans the University offers have unemployment clauses, so if students lose their jobs the University will work around their lack of income.

U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said the operation was a local initiative and not part of a larger nationwide movement.

He said U.S. marshals arrested four people last week and more than 30 others came in voluntarily to submit their financial information after the publicity surrounding the arrests.

Heffelfinger said people generally did not provide the information “not because they didn’t have the information, but because they don’t want to.”

He said they came from varied backgrounds, including employed people with professional jobs and a few single mothers.

Heffelfinger said the list of debtors had accumulated during approximately one year and people were included because of their refusal to provide employment and financial information, not necessarily because of the time their debt had gone unpaid.

The debtors can expect to have their wages garnished or their property seized, Heffelfinger said.

“The warrants are outstanding,” Heffelfinger said, “and if they haven’t been executed, they will be executed sometime in the future.”