Gordon Scott Engle pleaded guilty to five counts of Felony Debt Collecting Without a License.

Engle’s companies sent consumers collection notices telling them they had committed a criminal violation by failing to return rented property. The notices appeared to be, but were not, official court notices.

Some of the letters even included unsigned criminal summonses that appeared to be real, but did not have any legal effect, and were delivered by Engle’s hired private police officers.

Engle and his companies also filed hundreds of criminal complaints with misleading language in several North Carolina counties that resulted in actual criminal summonses being issued against customers.

Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Casey Viser gave Engle a five-to-15-month suspended sentence with two years of supervised probation.

Engle was also fined $5,000 and prohibited from applying for a debt collection license for three years.

He will also be required to complete 100 hours of community service work.