HOUSTON — A Houston lawyer specializing in lawsuits against consumers for old debts has been slapped with $25 million in civil penalties by a Harris County jury that found he uses deceptive trade and debt collection practices.

The verdict came Wednesday in a lawsuit the Texas attorney general’s office filed against attorney Joseph Onwuteaka.

According to the lawsuit, more than half of the 1,500 actions Onwuteaka and his businesses filed in Harris County were against consumers who either don’t live or didn’t sign loan agreements in the county. Consumer protection laws require debt collection lawsuits be filed in either the county where the person lives or where the loan documents were signed.

The Houston Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/2sXVmpa ) Onwuteaka contended the suit should be dismissed and that debtors aren’t consumers under Texas law.


Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com