A jury convicted former American Le Mans Series champion Scott Tucker of a huge list of charges in October, ending a predatory-loan scheme that sometimes charged 700-percent interest rates. Bloomberg has a story on just how widely that ring of payday loans spread—with Tucker’s family at the top of it all.
When Rhode Island resident Andrew Therrien had a loan collector approach him for money that he knew he didn’t owe and threaten to rape his wife when the two got angry at each other, Therrien set out on a personal quest to take down the people tricking others and collecting money for false loans. It led him to Joel Tucker, Scott Tucker’s younger brother, and the entire local industry—if you could call predatory loans that—they’d created with their other brother.
Scott Tucker, who threw a lot of the earnings from his payday lending scheme toward racing, had a well funded team from the time he was in club racing with the Sports Car Club of America all the way through his time in the professional ranks. Scott Tucker went from Ferrari Challenge through the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans, and he even raced the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 2010 to 2012. The feds said a jet, six Ferraris, four Porsches and an Aspen property were bought with Scott Tucker’s payday earnings as well.
Here’s a bit from the Bloomberg story on how the family’s dishonest earnings all came about:
Scott, the oldest, was the brains. He’d served time in prison for a scam in which he’d pretended to work for JPMorgan Chase & Co. ... Joel, tall and handsome, was a natural salesman. But when he was 21, he was selling furniture and working at a mini-mart, so hard up that he got arrested for bouncing a $12 check. (The case was dismissed.)
In the mid-1990s, Scott opened a payday-loan store and gave his brothers jobs. Lending money to people who don’t have any is surprisingly profitable. In states where such stores are legal, such as Missouri, they’re more common than McDonald’s franchises. ... Scott pioneered what he thought was a clever legal loophole that would give him access to that market: He created websites that were owned on paper by an American Indian tribe, which could claim sovereign immunity from regulators. ...
The loophole was ridiculously lucrative. Scott’s operation generated $2 billion in revenue from 2003 to 2012. He bought a private jet and spent more than $60 million to start his own professional Ferrari racing team. Around 2005, Joel split to start a company that would allow anyone to get into online payday lending—supplying software to process applications and loans and offering access to a steady stream of customers. All the clients had to bring was money and a willingness to bypass state law. Word spread around Kansas City’s country clubs and private schools that if you wanted to get rich, Joel Tucker was your man.
Therrien spent the two years after his 2015 run-in with the debt collector going over files, tracking down companies that sold people’s information to scammers collecting “phantom debt” that they didn’t really have. Bloomberg tells how he befriended and blackmailed loan sharks and collectors, getting them to lead him from one person in the industry to the next.
Therrien eventually got the Federal Trade Commission involved, and an FTC lawyer responded to the email with his research almost immediately: “Andrew, we need to talk about this.”
It wouldn’t be fair to ruin the ending (or the other wild, dark aspects of the rest of the story) for you, so here’s the link to the full thing.