Tampa, FL -- When the real estate market tanked, Rolena Drew and her husband were forced to declare bankruptcy. It was reflected on their credit report, and property records showed their home was deeded back to the bank.
Yet for nearly two years, Drew says she got a relentless barrage of cell phone calls from Ocwen Financial Corporation demanding she keep making payments.
"I thought they would look at the records and it would go away. But it didn't," said Drew, "They didn't care at all. They did not care what I was saying."
Drew asked Ocwen to stop -- even threatened to sue.
But in call after call, she said, the company's representatives would offer a seemingly dismissive response.
"I mean, I'm sure you buy multiple groups of loans and then just trying to collect them, but it's against the law to try and collect the loan from someone who has declared bankruptcy. Are you aware of that?" she asked one representative.
The answer? "Mmm Hmm."
Drew started documenting the calls and saving the records.
In September, a federal jury awarded her $327,000 in damages: $1,500 for each of 218 calls.
Judge Richard Lazzara found Ocwen's conduct so egregious, telling the company's lawyers, "I don't know who the president or the CEO is, but that person ought to personally apologize to those good people for what they went through."
Drew's attorney, David Mitchell, with the law firm of Maney Gordon, hopes the verdict sends a message that hits corporations where it hurts -- in the wallet.
"[...] to make this conduct stop. And if companies like this are held accountable, it will stop," Mitchell says.
Drew says one of the most hurtful calls came Dec. 24, just a day after her mother passed away. She figured it was one of her siblings calling to offer her comfort on the holiday.
"And instead, it was Ocwen calling on Christmas Eve. Less than 24 hours after my mother died," said Drew. "These big corporate giants who think they're totally above the law do not have the right to disregard consumers' rights."
There's been no word yet on whether Ocwen will appeal. In court, the company's lawyers claimed they didn't know that the Drew's property had been discharged. Ocwen also argued they did not know that the phone they were calling was a cell phone.
Attorneys for Ocwen also tried to distance themselves from the collectors' conduct, saying it was outside corporate policy.
In a statement to 10 News, Ocwen said, "We are currently reviewing the Court's decision and our options on appeal."