Scott Tucker went from rookie to champion racer with funds from a wildly lucrative group of payday lending business. But after years of lawsuits and trouble with the Federal Trade Commission, Tucker was arrested today, and a criminal indictment alleges a years-long marathon of illegal lending practices that exploited millions of poor people—all while Tucker lived the high life and went racing.
Tucker, a 53-year-old former American Le Mans champion racer, was arrested “without incident” in Kansas today, according to FBI officials. His indictment on several federal conspiracy counts was handed down in New York. Also indicted was Tucker’s attorney Timothy Muir.
They have each been charged with an array of violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, charges that range in maximum sentences from one to 20 years in prison.
Oh, and the feds have seized Tucker’s race cars, as they tend to do.
The indictment targets Tucker’s lending practices from 1997 to about 2013 at his businesses, which operated in several states and included Ameriloan, One Click Cash, FastCash and other payday loan services. These businesses offered high-interest, high fee loans to people who can supposedly repay them the next time they get paid, but have been criticized and investigated over obscenely (and in some cases, illegally) high interest rates.
Around that time, Tucker and his Level 5 Motorsports team went racing, starting in the Ferrari Challenge series, then Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans, and even ran in the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 2010 to 2012.
But the indictment says Tucker and Muir’s money came from practices that:
...systematically exploited over four and a half million working people throughout the United States who were struggling to pay basic living expenses, including for food and housing. TUCKER and MUIR, through the Tucker Payday Lenders, extended loans to these individuals at usurious interest rates as high as 700% or more using deceptive and misleading communications and contracts, and in violation of the usury laws of numerous states...
The indictment alleges Tucker and Muir’s businesses would force these borrowers into “cycles of debt” where they would need new payday loans—including from Tucker Payday Lenders—in order to pay off their existing debts.
Now, before you jump into the comments and say that these borrowers are stupid poor people who deserved to have their money taken from them because they are stupid and poor, note that many states—including ones where Tucker’s lending companies operated—make it a crime to set excessive interest rates. In New York it’s illegal to charge more than 25 percent interest on a loan annually.
Furthermore, Tucker’s businesses are accused of deceiving and misleading borrowers about how much they would actually need to repay the loans. His loans would only auto-debit the interest out of borrowers’ bank accounts, leaving the principal untouched; customers who borrowed $500 and were told they’d have repay $650 ended up paying close to $2000. Accurate figures were never provided to borrowers, the indictment says.
In total, the indictment accuses Tucker of having customers overpay on loans by $1.32 billion.
And Tucker is accused of netting these customers through a “lead generator” service that ran TV ads with a celebrity pitchman who promised a short-term way to “fix (their) financial problems,” the indictment said.
The indictment also said Tucker’s businesses failed to obtain licenses to operate in any of the states where licenses for that sort of thing are required.
Complaints rolled in over the years, as did the lawsuits, so the indictment says in 2003 Tucker entered into “sham business relationships” with several Native American tribes. He then claimed they could not be sued due to immunity from tribal sovereignty.
But the indictment says Tucker and Muir then prepared false documents to the courts to make it look like the tribes owned the payday lending operation, when they played “no such role.”
Tucker’s businesses were extremely profitable, the indictment said, leading to $2 billion in revenue and tens of millions of dollars funneled into luxury houses, cars, a private airplane, and yes, Tucker’s race team.
Speaking of which, the indictment orders Tucker’s assets to be forfeited, which include bank accounts, real estate, a Ferrari 599XX, a Ferrari 599 GTO, a Porsche Carrera GT, two Ferrari 458 Challenge cars, and one Learjet.
Tucker will be transferred to New York to answer the charges, an FBI official said.
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