Seven armed US Marshals in combat gear showed up on the doorstep of 48-year-old Paul Aker's home Thursday in Houston, the New York Daily News reports. His crime? Failing to pay a $1,500 student loan he received in 1987. "I say, 'What is this all about?'" Aker recalls. "They say, 'Shut up, you know what this is all about.' I don't have a clue." Aker claims he never got a notice or warning about the student loan. "It's out of control," he says. "What if they had seen a gun on me? They would have shot me for 1,500 bucks." Aker says he was tossed on the ground, thrown in a cell, and "lectured" by a judge. He's been ordered to pay the student loan plus interest—totaling $5,700—as well as $1,300 to cover the cost of his own arrest.
"There's bound to be a better way to collect on a student loan debt that is so old," Texas Rep. Gene Green tells Fox 26. Green says the federal government is now using private debt collectors to go after student loans, which means debt collectors have access to the US Marshals. Raw Story reports the country's 94 US Marshals are "generally involved in the worst of the worst federal crimes." But one source with the US Marshals in Houston says they currently have between 1,200 and 1,500 student loan-related warrants to serve. Aker says his treatment by the US Marshals over a $1,500 loan has left him "shaken" and "afraid to go outside." "You could have sent me a letter," he tells the Daily News. "You could have called me." (Some students are actually leaving the country to avoid their loan debt.)