Civics: Meet New York City’s highest-earning official. He’s a debt collector for predatory lenders.

Zachary R. Mider and Zeke Faux:

In theory, Barbarovich’s reach ends at the city limits. In practice, it spans the nation. From a third-floor office near Coney Island in Brooklyn, he has grabbed cash from a physician in California, a roofer in Florida and a cattle auctioneer in Illinois. Borrowers say he and other marshals routinely push the limits of their authority.

“How could they pull all that money? I’ve never even been to New York,” says Jose Soliz, a masonry contractor near Amarillo, Texas, who had more than $56,000 taken from his bank account by Barbarovich last year. “It’s a con.”

Barbarovich, who declined to be interviewed, said in an email that he follows the rules for issuing legal demands. Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the New York City Marshals Association, said his members aren’t responsible for their clients’ business practices. “Marshals simply enforce court judgments,” he said.

The companies making Barbarovich rich advance money at rates that can top 400 percent annualized. To get around state laws designed to stamp out loan sharking, they say they aren’t making loans but buying the money that businesses will likely make in the future at a discounted price. Courts have generally recognized this distinction, and the industry, known as merchant cash advance, has grown to an estimated $15 billion a year.

A City Marshal’s Fortunes Rise