More than almost anything, Mattie Myers wants to hear what people say.
The 77-year-old West Baltimore woman says that's why she was receptive to a sales pitch from Reginald Spencer, a Columbia hearing aid broker. Myers said Spencer persuaded her to buy a $1,600 system and told her not to worry about how to pay for it.
"I was stretching myself because I really did want a hearing aid," said Myers, who constantly reminded a caller to speak louder. One of the two hearing aids she received from Spencer a year ago doesn't work.
She said Spencer showed her a hearing aid device at her home. After she told him she couldn't afford it, she said, he made a telephone call and persuaded her to give him $50 and sign a couple of papers.
Two months and two $45 payments later, she received a bill from a creditor showing her owing $1,600.
The Maryland attorney general's office has charged Spencer with violating the state's Consumer Protection Law. Prosecutors plan to seek full restitution from Spencer in a proceeding scheduled to start April 25 in Baltimore. Anyone who wishes to testify should call the Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general's office at 528-1840.
The office said it has received a number of complaints about Spencer's hearing-aid sales to elderly people with fixed incomes who live in federally subsidized homes.
Spencer, of Spencer & Associates, denied the allegations but said his lawyer advised him not to discuss the charges.
Officials alleged that Spencer convinced consumers that they needed hearing aids and occasionally got them to apply for loans by leading them to believe the applications were charge slips. They also alleged he deceived consumers into waiving rights to have doctors examine their ears before buying the devices.
Assistant Attorney General Jacqueline Wei Mintz said Spencer failed to inform customers of their right to cancel the sale within three days. She said more than two dozen victims already have been identified and that officials are seeking more.