Tuesday February 16, 2016

Armed with machine guns US Marshals arrest people over unpaid student loans

U.S. Marshals showed up at Paul Aker's home last week after he failed to pay a student loan from 1987.

U.S. Marshals showed up at Paul Aker's home last week after he failed to pay a student loan from 1987. (Getty Images)

Listen 7:42

In 1987, Paul Aker, like millions of Americans, took out a student loan to help pay for college. Last week, he was arrested for not paying that loan back. 

I see four U.S. Marshals with machine guns, and pistols, and a door-battering ram - Paul Aker

His first sign that something was amiss was when a man in a utility uniform called his name outside his house. He ran inside, and, in typical Texas fashion, got his gun. As he tells As It Happens host Carol Off, "I was quite nervous." 

About an hour later, the US Marshal Service was at his door, "I see four U.S. Marshals with machine guns, and pistols, and a door battering ram." Aker walked out with his hands up. They took him to the ground, handcuffed him, and put him in an SUV.

As they were driving Aker to the courthouse, they told him the arrest was over an unpaid student loan. "I look at him, and I say, 'Are you serious? You're arresting me for a student loan?'" Once at the courthouse, they shackled his ankles and waist, and kept him in a jail cell for about two hours, before he could see the judge. 

I look at him and I say 'Are you serious? You're arresting me for a student loan?' - Paul Aker

The original loan was for $1500. With interest, Aker owed $5700. But that wasn't all. The Marshals said with gas and manpower, Aker's arrest cost $1300. The judge wants him to pay that back, too. 

Aker insists he only got one notice he needed to pay back the money, and that it was a postcard stuck in his door. He assumed it was a scam, and ignored it. 

What if this had been early in the morning, and you startled me, and I reached for my gun? I would have been shot for $1500. - Paul Aker

Aker believes he's not alone. He's heard there are warrants out for 1200 more people, and he thinks someone is going to get hurt. "What if this had been early morning, and you startled me, and I reached for my gun? ...I would have been shot for $1500." 

The U.S. Marshals Service released a statement that — in part — reads: "The situation escalated when Aker verbally said to the deputies that he had a gun. After Aker made the statement that he was armed, in order to protect everyone involved, the deputies requested additional law enforcement assistance. Additional deputy marshals and local law enforcement officers responded to the scene. After approximately two hours, the law enforcement officers convinced Aker to peacefully exit his home, and he was arrested."