Under the Uniform Commercial Code, Article 9, security interest holders in all 50 US states are generally permitted to repossess goods if a debtor has failed to fulfill their contractual obligations. This seemingly straightforward task that repo men and women face on a daily basis is often arduous, with perilous uncertainties.
More than a few debtors become violent, forcing repossession agents to take precautions and get creative to both acquire their quarries and keep themselves safe. On the other side of the coin, quite a few repo men have exhibited rather callous behavior, as well. The following ten accounts feature a myriad of grievous repossessions mired in absurd and wildly bizarre mishaps and meltdowns.
Repo men are often met with challenges that make their recoup contracts quite impossible to execute. With scores of temperamental debtors hell-bent on retaining their possessions, agents habitually resort to trickery in order to pull off the perfect and, most importantly, subtle repossession. Take, for example, Max Hardberger, who specializes in ship recovery in some of the world’s most dangerous ports. During the height of Haiti’s rebellion in 2004, the retired ship captain managed to repossess a 10,000-ton cargo vessel right out of the chaotic and combative harbor. Such a feat was accomplished with the use of voodoo. Knowing that a majority of the country believes in the syncretic religion, Hardberger would hire a voodoo priest to intentionally distract his debtors, allowing him the opportunity to seamlessly gain custody of their ships.
Another ploy he utilizes in countries with corrupt or nonfunctioning governments is the help of prostitutes. “I use prostitutes a lot,” Hardberger said. “They are good actresses. They have to be.” On these particular jobs, Hardberger instructs the ladies to board the ship under false romantic pretenses in order to extract as much useful information concerning the logistics on board. This vital intel—the number of men aboard, presence of guards, amount of remaining fuel, functional generator, and so on—is reported back to Hardberger. who then goes on to craft a well-organized and exceptional repossession.
Kevin Brian Federwisch could not have asked for an easier task when he arrived at a Houston home to repossess a 1994 Chevrolet truck in 2005. With the vehicle already in the driveway with its engine running, the job was an ideal scenario, by all appearances. As a result, Federwisch seized the opportunity and, within minutes, was driving away in the truck. At that moment, 36-year-old Rhonda Bland came bolting out of her home as swift as Jesse Owens before catapulting like an Olympian into the truck’s bed. Like a bat out of Hell, Bland—who just happened to be nine months pregnant at the time—began banging on the truck’s cab as Federwisch carelessly proceeded down the road, indifferent to her howling. At some point during Bland’s unexpected road trip, her husband called the police and reported that the repo man had kidnapped his wife. Like a gentleman, Federwisch eventually stopped at a gas station to let his gravid passenger out. Reports indicate that Bland was “relatively uninjured” but was taken to the hospital for labor pains, while Federwisch, 31, was arrested on charges of unlawful restraint and reckless driving.
Interestingly enough, Bland’s antics do not compare to another pregnant woman from Ohio who took her extreme stunts to a whole other level in 2012. Seeing how her SUV was already in the process of being repossessed, 21-year-old Sophia E. Davidson hopped inside the tow truck and sped off. At speeds reaching 105 kilometers per hour (65 mph), five police cruisers followed in pursuit as Davidson, who was eight months pregnant, swerved in and out of traffic. “I’ve never chased anybody driving a tow truck with a car on the back of it,” said Lt. Michael Mareno. Nearly 13 kilometers (8 mi) down the road, both back tires of the truck blew out, causing Davidson to crash both vehicles into a residential home. As one would imagine, she was arrested on charges of felony theft and fleeing police.
In June 2016, 66-year-old Andrew Jackson Higdon III was contracted to replace the rooftop of a woman’s home in Louisiana. Following a verbal agreement, it was understood that Higdon would receive his payment only after her insurance issued a check. Regardless of such promises, Higdon’s impatience boiled over six months later, when he began demanding for his payment in full. Dismissing the woman’s proposed payment plan, the fuming roofer threatened to repossess her roof if her debt wasn’t settled in a timely fashion. As luck would have it, Higdon was a man of his word and followed through with his vengeful promise three days before Christmas. In the days that followed, thunderstorms poured down on the roofless home, causing an estimated $11,500 in damage. Higdon’s elation after his pricey stunt would be short-lived, however. He was arrested for criminal damage to property and criminal trespass.
Perhaps a home without a roof is better than having no home at all. Just ask Jo and Lonnie Harrison of Texas, who arrived at their vacation cabin in summer 2018 to discover that it was gone. “Who steals a house?” asked Jo Harrison. “It’s just really hard to even grasp that the house is actually gone. That someone hauled it away.” According to Sergeant Larry Shiver, who assessed the vacant lot of blocks and pipes, “I’ve never had a house reported stolen in my career yet.” The Harrisons eventually learned that their cabin had been repossessed and moved. Whether or not they will reclaim their vacation home has yet to be determined.
It’s not unusual for repo men to come across peculiar belongings in reclaimed vehicles. Often, questionable possessions are dismissed; however, every now and then, agents will discover the unthinkable. Such was the case for workers in Salt Lake City, who, in all probability, soiled their shorts after finding pipe bombs in the trunk of a repossessed truck in 2012. Once the bomb squad detonated the devices, a SWAT team raided the home of 29-year-old Michael John Owens, who was arrested on two counts of possessing explosives.
As unsettling as that may be, nothing could have prepared the employees at All-Star Recovery in Memphis, Tennessee, who uncovered a ghastly crime in 2017. While taking inventory of an abandoned Chevy Malibu that was repossessed, workers popped the trunk, only to discover a bloated and nauseatingly putrid decomposing corpse.
The body was later identified as 42-year-old Anitra Summerville. Soon after, the coroner stated that he suspected foul play in her death, as if the public had not already arrived at that blatant conclusion. To date, the case remains open.
As preposterous as it is infuriating, in 2017, Wayne and Crystal Leatherman found themselves in a financial quandary pertaining not to a repossessed vehicle but their child’s headstone. The grieving parents, who had lost their five-year-old son Jake to leukemia the previous year, had fallen behind on payments when Reverend J.C. Shoaf of Southeastern Monument Company repossessed the grave marker. To add insult to injury, the Leathermans were made aware of the repossession only after visiting their child’s barren plot. “He repossessed it, like it was a car,” Crystal Leatherman told WBTV. “This is my lowest point.”
Apparently, dollar signs overshadow compassion in the world of business, as was the case for Mathison Motors in Clearwater, Minnesota. In 2015, while attending a family funeral, Wayne and Amber Walberg’s Chrysler Town and Country minivan was repossessed in the parking lot as the unsuspecting couple grieved indoors. Among the many personal items in their vehicle, including social security cards and birth certificates, were the ashes of their infant son, Zach. With heavy hearts, the Walbergs fruitlessly pleaded with the dealership for the return of their son’s urn, their cries falling on deaf ears all the while. Eventually, the distraught couple was informed that they had 24 to 48 hours to pay $350 if they ever wanted to get their infant’s ashes back. The callous threat prompted the Walbergs to take their case to local news stations, spawning a quick and unforgiving backlash from the community.
Overnight, Wayne and Amber were reunited with their son’s remains. In addition, Mathison Motors offered the return of their remaining items free of charge in order to temper the flames of disdain from the public. As for Reverend J.C. Shoaf, he, too, felt the mounting repercussions of his actions, stating, “We’d like very much so to return the grave marker back to Woodlawn Cemetery and give our appreciation to the media for helping us get this resolved, that the family would not owe us anything, we will mark their bill paid in full.”
In 2009, 59-year-old deadbeat Helen Walker heard a commotion outside her Staten Island home. Upon realizing her car was being repossessed, she sprang into action and jumped in the front seat of her sedan. With the car in drive and the engine floored, Walker sped forward in a brazen attempt to run down the reviled repo man. Reminiscent of a scene from a Hollywood film, the man was knocked onto the hood of the vehicle, where he held on for dear life as the crazed debtor rapidly zigzagged throughout the neighborhood. In spite of her daredevil maneuvers, the repo man miraculously managed to cling to the hood of the sedan for ten blocks before police caught up to the dynamic duo.
After several minutes that felt like an eternity, the vehicle finally came to a stop, bringing much relief to Walker’s nemesis. Moments later, the car-surfing agent’s feet touched the ground while Walker was being read her rights. Surprisingly, the victim only sustained minor injuries despite being taken on a roller coaster ride from Hell. As for Walker, she witnessed the repossession of her car in spite of her valiant efforts in addition to being arrested on assault charges.
Distraught over the passing of his mother-in-law (words seldom said), a man in Kent, England, took it upon himself to plan the funeral arrangements to spare his wife the burden. Before the woman was even cold, however, it became apparent that arranging the services would be a taxing endeavor. Almost immediately, Butterfly Funeral Services stopped responding to the man, who did not want to be identified, exacerbating the stress family members were already going through.
After days without hearing from the undertaker, the vexed griever took matters into his own hands to ensure a proper send-off. With a rented van ready to go, the man furtively entered the mortuary and reclaimed granny’s brittle corpse in broad daylight. He later stated, “I had no option. I had to get the body out.” Without his wife’s knowledge, he then casually brought the remains to another undertaker as if he was dropping off laundry at the dry cleaners.
According to reports, local police were made aware of his plans prior to removing the body yet took no action and proceeded without filing any criminal charges. Interestingly enough, Butterfly Funeral Services became insolvent, leading to the subsequent repossession of the funeral home. In total, 16 full urns remained on a shelf as bailiffs took inventory of the property. To date, attempts at reuniting relatives with their loved ones’ remains are ongoing.
As Leo Song backed his truck into a Southern California driveway in 2011, little did he know that his life would soon be forever changed. While he was in the process of lifting the targeted Buick, Lisa Via emerged from her mobile home, pleading with Song to spare her the burden of repossessing her car. Unable to accommodate her despairing request, Song proceeded to latch her vehicle to his truck prior to leaving the premises. As he pulled the truck out of the driveway, the shattering cries of Lisa’s husband caused the agent to instantaneously slam on the brakes. Unbeknownst to Song, Lisa came between the truck and the car as he pulled away. The 42-year-old woman was crushed to death.
Such a tragedy mirrored the fate of Georgia man Nabil Malouf in 1994. After being informed by a fellow employee that his silver Mercury Cougar was being repossessed, Malouf raced out to the parking lot to take action. Having no interest in debating Malouf, the two repo men climbed into their truck and proceeded to drive away with the car hooked to the back. Not to be deterred, Malouf attempted to climb onto the back of the truck when he slipped to the ground and was run over. In the days after his death, it was revealed that an internal confusion at Malouf’s bank had erroneously listed his car as being overdue when, in reality, the Mercury had already been paid off.
It was around midnight in May 2016 when Brennan and Ashleigh Best heard a knock at their door. To their dismay, it was Kenneth Drew, a 50-year-old Utah repossession agent who had come for their SUV. Predictably, a heated argument immediately ensued between Kenneth and Brennen, but the spat eventually subsided following an arrangement between the two: In order to keep his vehicle, Brennen agreed to make the overdue payment and provide Kenneth with proof within the next few days.
By all appearances, the matter was momentarily settled, and tempers were dying down. That is, however, until Kenneth saw Ashleigh speed out of the driveway. Prior to the men making a deal, Brennen had told Ashleigh to drive away. This infuriated Kenneth, given the leniency he’d showed the couple. Feeling as if he were taken for a fool, Kenneth hastily followed in pursuit.
Speeding erratically down the boulevard, Kenneth caught up to Ashleigh and began grinding the tow truck’s right rear tire into her door. At a speed greater than 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph), Ashleigh lost control, causing the SUV to jump a curb and crash head-on into a tree. The 35-year-old mother of two was pronounced dead at the scene. Eight months later, Kenneth Drew pleaded guilty to manslaughter and, subsequently, was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison.
Not far from Dublin, Ireland, in April 2010, Patrick Mulvey and Justin Tighe arrived at 58-year-old Donal Connaughton’s pig farm to repossess two power washers and a generator. Almost immediately, the two repo men were met by a hostile Connaughton, who refused to hand over the machinery. Scornful words soon turned violent, with a physical brawl ensuing. Several of Connaughton’s farmhands joined in the fray. Outnumbered, Mulvey and Tighe were soon overtaken. Defeated and with no feasible reason to remain on the premises, the two attempted to leave but soon came to the frightening realization that their nightmare was just beginning.
Proclaiming that the repo men had met the Devil, an enraged Connaughton latched a backhoe to the men’s tow truck, entrapping them. Mulvey and Tighe were then given two options: have their heads ripped off and eaten by Connaughton or strip naked and walk to freedom in the nude. Their unconventional predicament only worsened after they refused to bare it all, causing Connaughton to become even more incensed. As the men pleaded for their release, a crazed Connaughton brought out a black wild boar and demanded that they get into the pen with the agitated animal. “Go on, be a man, strip naked and get in with the boar,” Connaughton hollered before romantically adding that the wild swine would “show them what happens to inmates in prison.”
After an unspecified amount of torment, Connaughton agreed to their release under one condition: They would have to get on their knees and pray. After eagerly obliging, Mulvey and Tighe were told by the devilish debtor that they had caught him “on a good day.”
On November 11, 2013, Connaughton was sentenced to 12 months in prison after being found guilty of two counts of false imprisonment, threatening to cause serious harm, assault, and criminal damage.
Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.