A 41-year-old Northwest Washington man who for five years eluded the federal government's efforts to collect a $1,100 court judgment against him for an unpaid student loan while at the same time working for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was arrested yesterday by U.S. marshals.
"When you ignore a contempt of court [summons] . . . you can expect to have U.S. marshals take you into custody and bring you before the court," Assistant U.S. Attorney Royce C. Lamberth said after Ronald A. Sanders of 49 Seaton Place NW was arrested at his home.
U.S. Magistrate Arthur L. Burnett told Sanders that he could have "avoided embarrassment" if he had simply answered the government's inquiries. In the future, Burnett said, "come down here and people will try to help you."
Sanders, who told Burnett that he hadn't received all of the court's summons because of "domestic problems," said simply that the incident had been "humiliating."
The government had been trying for five years to get Sanders to set up a repayment plan for the balance, plus interest, on two loans, totaling $1,700, that he received while attending Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
The order to bring Sanders into court was approved Jan. 22 by U.S. District Judge John Pratt after the government was unable to find out where Sanders worked. Although federal agencies have several programs designed to uncover federal employes who have defaulted on student loans, none apparently turned up Sanders, officials said.
"We do not intend to allow people to ignore their obligation to repay money they owe the United States," Lamberth said. "In this day of federal deficits, the money we can obtain from debt collections, while small in individual cases, is staggering in its total impact on the federal treasury."
Richard Hastings of the Department of Education said that of all federal loan programs, about $5 billion is in default. For guaranteed student loans, made by private financial institutions and backed by the government, the rate of default is about 10 percent, he said.
For direct student loans, the default rate is about 14.5 percent.
As part of its increased efforts, Hastings said, the names of more than 18,000 people who are in default on their loans have been sent to federal prosecutors for collection.
Lamberth said that in the District the government is trying to collect on about 1,000 judgments. The wages of more than 100 federal employes here are being garnisheed.
Government officials said that they expected Sanders' pay would be garnisheed if he did not propose a satisfactory repayment schedule.