Good Samaritan pays off predatory loan debt after USA TODAY article

James Hollis can say goodbye to a pair of predatory loans with triple-digit interest rates.

Half a dozen Good Samaritans from across the country offered to pay off the debt after USA TODAY Nov. 3, wrote about Hollis, who lives on Social Security disability and $23 in monthly food stamps, and his $3,050 in car title loans he got to fix a faulty transmission.

Hollis said Monday he was blown away by the generous offers, and Lorne Lavine, an Encino, Calif. dentist who owns a dental technology company, covered the tab.

“I feel great relief,” Hollis said. “I didn’t know how I was going to get there. I was attached.”

James Hollis who was subject to predatory loans at his home in Tucson, AZ on Monday, October 24, 2022.
Cassidy Araiza for USA TODAY

Hollis had started parking his 2006 Ford Crown Victoria, a converted ex-police cruiser, on its side in his carport in Tucson, Ariz., because he feared it would be picked up after falling behind in his payments in July.

Lavine, who said he provided free dental care abroad on humanitarian trips, said he wanted to help Hollis and was stunned by interest rates of nearly 155% and 202% on loans from car titles.

Interest on those loans was $10,741, or a total bill of nearly $14,000 if Hollis had paid it back over several years, records show.

“I felt awful,” Lavine told USA TODAY. “The people who need these loans the most are the hardest to repay, and these rates are crazy. can they get their heads above water when they have 200% interest on the loans?

USA TODAY wrote about Hollis as it examines the high-interest loans that critics and supporters say are becoming common across the country. Driving the trend is the staggering level of inflation gripping low-income earners who need help paying for their purchases in instalments.

The story also pointed to a small bipartisan group in Congress that wants to lower the cost of these loans by passing national legislation that would cap interest rates at 36%. That’s the maximum charged on all loans made to serving military and their families after a law was enacted 16 years ago.

Hollis said he received offers from five other strangers, including a woman who wanted to do a collection at her church. He said he kindly told those five people that another person, Lavine, had paid the debt.

James Hollis had one of his car title loans repaid on November 4, after an unknown person paid the debt after reading an article about Hollis and his predatory triple-digit loans in USA TODAY.
James Hollis had one of his car title loans repaid on November 4, after an unknown person paid the debt after reading an article about Hollis and his predatory triple-digit loans in USA TODAY.
James Hollis

Lavine said he was able to repay the larger loan of nearly $2,600 directly, but the company holding the smaller loan would only take payment from Hollis. So Lavine said he sent her a check.

Lavine said the USA TODAY story “hit a nerve” with him, and that he was initially only going to pay part of the loan. But after Hollis sent him all the loan documents, he was “devastated” by seeing the high interest rates and decided to pay it all back.

Lavine said another reason he wanted to help was to be a good role model for his 16-year-old son, Jake.

“I get pleasure and joy from helping others,” Lavine said. “I want him (Jake) to be a good person and to be helpful, kind and respectful.”

Much of Hollis’ limited income went toward the $427 monthly loan payment. Now he said he would have enough money to pay his bills and buy Christmas presents for his family.

And his days of taking car title loans are over.

“I won’t do that again,” Hollis said. “No way.”

Got a tip on business or investigative stories? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-509-3613 or on Twitter @CraigHarrisUSAT or on linkedin.com/in/craig-harris-70024030/

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