Louisiana seeks back fees from some North Texans

Some Texans who once lived in Louisiana are now getting letters saying they owe money to their old state, and it's all because of an issue with their cars.

A letter is going out to Louisiana residents all across the country, and it has many dismissing it, thinking it's a scam. 

“I was mad! I wanted to know why I owed this money for something that happened 10 years ago,” said Plano resident Casey DeLatte, who received a letter.

DeLatte is a husband and father of three young children. He and his family moved to Texas in 2005.

"I grew up in south Louisiana,” said DeLatte. “Love south Louisiana, but it very much disappoints me that I'm getting a letter from the State of Louisiana for something that happened so long ago."

The letter had the correct name and former Louisiana address and driver's license number, but no vehicle information.

It does not have the state seal or official letter heading, but it does say he owes the Office of Motor Vehicles $525 for failure to maintain liability insurance and says he did not submit proof of what happened to the vehicle, whether it was sold, traded, etc. 

“What am I supposed to do about this?” said DeLatte. “Am I going to have to hire a lawyer? Am I going to have to go spend a bunch of money on legal fees to try and get rid of this debt? This isn't something that I need to be paying for right now."

Dallas lawyer Pete Schulte is no stranger to scams and was suspect of the letter.

“The biggest concern I have about this letter is that it doesn't have items on it that actually would verify that it was from the State of Louisiana,” said Schulte.

FOX 4 spoke by phone with the head of Louisiana state police, Colonel Mike Edmonson. He says the letter is legitimate and that the state recently sent out 1 million letters in an effort to recoup millions of dollars from people with vehicle and insurance infractions that were never properly handled or paid. 

Edmonson says the quickest, most inexpensive way to inform people of their outstanding debts was using bulk mail. He says that with the state seal letterhead, it would have been too costly.

“What people need to do if they get these letters, they need to send certified letters back to the post office box center, saying, ‘This debt is in dispute,’” said Schulte. “Federal law then requires them to confirm that the debt is real or they cannot push it along to a collection agency."  

The letter makes it clear that a 25 percent collection fee will be added if there is no response within 60 days of receipt of the letter. 

Schulte says sending a certified letter disputing the debt could buy you some time because he says it puts the burden on the state to prove what you did wrong.

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