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Phone rage leads to St. Louis arrest for Fostoria man
Written by Administrator | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Matthew Hathaway
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
A Fostoria, Ohio, man, fed up with deceptive junk mail, made the mistake of losing his temper while on the phone with a St. Louis company pitching an extended auto-service contract. Now he finds himself behind bars, where he is charged with making a terrorist threat.
According to court documents, Charles W. Papenfus, 43, allegedly told a sales representative during a May 18 telephone call that he would burn down the building and kill the employees and their families. He was indicted for making a terrorist threat, a Class D felony; and he could be sentenced to up to four years in prison if convicted.
Papenfus’ wife, Tracie, said she hasn’t seen her husband since his arrest on June 27, when he was lured to a Fostoria police station with a false story about being suspected in a tavern fight there. Charles Papenfus, a self-employed mechanic who sometimes works on the department’s police cruisers, dropped by the station to clear his name, she said.
Tracie Papenfus said she still can’t understand why her husband is held 450 miles from home at the St. Louis workhouse on a $45,000 bond she can’t afford to pay. (That amount could be lowered at bond-reduction hearing scheduled for July 27.)
“He shouldn’t have mouthed off on the phone, but this is overkill,” Tracie Papenfus said. “He just can’t handle it in there. He’s not a criminal. … They make it sound like he’s a terrorist, and he’s far from it.
Court records don’t name the firm that Papenfus allegedly threatened, but they say the business is located at 300 North Tucker Boulevard. The only firm in that building that sells service contracts — popularly known as “extended warranties” — is TXEN Partners, which does business as Service Protection Direct. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.
The Better Business Bureau recently accused the firm of sending mailers to consumers that incorrectly state factory warranties on their vehicles either have expired or will run out soon. Last year, then-Attorney General Jay Nixon sued the firm for misleading consumers, and a condition of that suit’s settlement was that TXEN Partners would refer to consumers’ expiring warranties only if the company believes “in good faith” that those claims are true.
Tracie Papenfus said her husband called a St. Louis telemarketing firm — she didn’t know the name — after getting a mailer stating that the factory warranty had expired for the 1996 Ford Taurus driven by his 23-year-old son. The car, bought as-is for $3,000, hasn’t had a factory warranty for years.
“He wanted to know, ‘Why are you sending this when we’ve never had a warranty?’” Tracie Papenfus said.
In fact, Charles Papenfus asked that same question several times. He called the firm after receiving the mailer, then he called the company back to complain some more, said Douglas Forsyth, a local attorney representing Papenfus. The call during which Papenfus allegedly made a terrorist threat was initiated by the firm, in a response to a voice-mail message left by Papenfus, Forsyth said.
“They insulted each other,” Forsyth said, adding that Papenfus called the company “a scam” and the telemarketer called Papenfus “a jackass or (an expletive) or both.”
Forsyth said that, several minutes into the call, Papenfus said something about burning down the firm’s building.
Tracie Papenfus said the outburst was unusual for her husband, who she described as “a cool-headed guy.” However, she said, he hadn’t quite been himself after taking prescription painkiller medication for a compound wrist fracture he received in a motorcycle accident a few days before the call occurred. Irritability can be one side effect from those drugs, Forsyth said.
Christopher Thetford, a spokesman for the BBB in St. Louis, said he isn’t surprised to hear of a consumer threatening a service-contract broker.
“While it’s not something we condone, it is something we can understand,” Thetford said. “Oftentimes, consumers feel pushed and pushed. … It’s a frustration we hear from consumers every day when they talk about the extended-service contract industry.”
Authorities would not discuss facts of the case, but one official said that business practices of a telemarketing firm shouldn’t be a factor.
“I think all sorts of people get frustrated with all sorts of businesses,” said Ed Postawko, chief warrant officer in the Circuit Attorney’s Office. “The solution is to don’t patronize that business, it’s not to break the law. … Two wrongs don’t make a right.