HOUSTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- As student loan debt stories go, Paul Aker's is a doozy.
Aker said heavily armed U.S. Marshals showed up at his home to demand collection of a $1,500, 30-year-old student loan. The Houston man was arrested, taken to court and ordered to sign documents to repay the debt, he said
The story gained national attention, including from U.S. Rep Gene Green, D-Texas, who stood by Aker's side during a television news interview to decry the "extreme" measures. But like many stories on the Internet, there's more to it than what meets the eye.
Aker was arrested, but it wasn't just for his unpaid debt. He had a 2012 arrest warrant for failing to show up to a court hearing regarding his unpaid debt. The U.S. Marshals Service said the "situation escalated" when Aker allegedly threatened law enforcement by saying he had a gun.
"After Aker made the statement that he was armed," the U.S. Marshals Service said, "in order to protect everyone involved, the deputies requested additional law enforcement assistance. After approximately two hours, officers convinced Aker to peacefully exit his home, and he was arrested without further incident."
Marshals had been trying to reach Aker for three years, a spokesman said.
"We actually talked to him on the phone in 2013, at which time he told us that he would not appear in court and that we would have to come get him," chief deputy U.S. Marshal Richard Hunter told NBC News.
Aker's case dates back to November 1987, when he borrowed $1,500 at an 8 percent interest rate, court records show. He defaulted on the loan in 1989. Although a total of $350 was paid by 1999, the loan jumped to $1,715 due to interest and fees. By 2006, the court levied a $2,700 judgment against Aker, which included the principal balance, interest and administrative fees and penalties.
To enforce the judgment, the court attempted to take a deposition from Aker in 2012 but records indicated he did not show. Court documents show in December 2012 a federal judge ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to arrest Aker for failing to appear in court.
The case went silent until Akers' arrest Thursday. Aker said he was caught unaware when the federal agents arrived at his home. Marshals said two deputies tried to arrest Aker but he retreated into his home and said he had a gun.
Aker has been ordered to pay $1,258.60 to reimburse the U.S. Marshal for the cost of arresting him. He has also been ordered to pay $3,800 starting in April from the loan, plus interest.
A hearing is set for June 24. If he does not appear in court, another arrest warrant will be issued, court documents show.
Aker's situation is an example of how the federal government gets involved in the collection of past student loan debt and the circumstances that could follow in a loan default, the result of nonpayment on a loan for 270 days.
The federal government has the right to garnish wages, social security and sue borrowers. Nearly two dozen states can also revoke driver's and professional licenses for unpaid student debt.
There is $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt nationally. Some $103 billion of that is in default.