Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Operation Anaconda Squeeze leads to arrests of debtors in Minnesota

U.S. Marshals recently arrested and jailed four people in Minnesota who had defaulted on their student loans. These debtors had also failed to provide financial information at the request of federal officials.

Although the debtors were not charged with a crime, they were held in jail until they agreed to turn personal financial information over to Minneapolis Federal District Court. Prosecutors plan to use the information to determine how the individuals will recoup their loans.

Barbara Thomas of Washington University’s Student Financial Services said that this situation is unlikely to happen here.

“We try to keep people from getting into that situation as best we can,” she said. “We have lots of different deferment options, lots of tools, and different kinds of deferment. If somebody completely ignores us, we might sue because we do expect to be paid, but we also give lots of help,” she said. “That thing in Minnesota was over the top. I mean, I don’t know Minnesota, but I’ve never heard of anything like that happening in Missouri.”

Before making arrests, federal prosecutors sent notices to 150 people stating that they had to send financial information to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Of those, 57 complied, while 30 had either left the state or were deceased.

Individuals who ignored the statement were ordered by a court to undergo a debtor’s examination. Warrants were issued for the arrest of individuals who failed to show up for the examination. Six of the 10 people for whom officials obtained warrants complied. U.S. Marshals arrested the remaining four. The crackdown was dubbed Operation Anaconda Squeeze.

U.S. Attorney Robert Small, as quoted in the Minnesota Chronicle, said of the arrests, “We don’t do it very often. The bottom line is that the threat of arrests is an effective tool.”

WU freshman Jeremy Borrego agreed.

“You know, I feel like it’s got to stop somewhere,” he said. “I mean, if you owed money to the mafia and they gave you this many warnings, you’d be dead.”

Aaron Wolfson was less enthusiastic.

“I feel like this is a little bit extreme because it seems like U.S. Marshals should be arresting violent criminals, not student debtors,” said the freshman. “I think of U.S. Marshals as being out on manhunts.”

Students at WU don’t have to worry though, according to Thomas.

“I want to stress that we have a very good track record here at WU,” she said.

“Our level of loan defaults is really not very high because we give so much help and we want students to think of us as an organization that is here to help them.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Education Department in Washington, D.C., said that the arrests were not part of a national crackdown on defaulters and said the arrests had not been requested.

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