Tucker Sentenced 16 Years, 8 Months for Fraudulent Payday Lending Scheme
Rejecting a plea that he had been “misrepresented” and was actually a “good and fair businessman, employer, and American citizen,” a federal judge sentenced payday lending giant Scott Tucker to 200 months in federal prison. Judge Kevin Castel refused Tucker’s hollow remorse, commenting, “the notion that Mr. Tucker is an honest businessman doesn’t fly with me.”
With the help of an attorney, Timothy Muir, Tucker built a multi-billion dollar payday lending empire by exploiting the sovereign status of 3 different tribes to shield his unlawful business practices from state and federal regulatory scrutiny. To skirt state loan interest caps, Tucker entered into agreements with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Santee Sioux of Nebraska, and Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma. In exchange for one percent of the profits from the payday lending operations, the tribes agreed to provide Tucker’s businesses with sovereign immunity.
The depths of Tucker’s deceptions came to light during his federal trial for fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and racketeering. Muir reluctantly acceded that he fraudulently signed a legal document with “J.S. Ragman” (a Vietnam era slang term for a disheveled soldier, Joe Shit the Ragman) in a $30 million settlement with another payday lender, Charles Hallinan.
In an email, Muir alluded to the true nature of Tucker’s business arrangement with the tribes via a reference to the Wizard of Oz by referring to Tucker as “the man behind the curtain.” Muir and Tucker argued their dealings with the tribes were in “good faith,” but prosecutors reminded jurors that the tribes retained no control over these operations- the tribes did not have access to the tribal business bank accounts, did not sign their own legal settlements, , and did not provide any advice or input as to how the businesses were run. Muir created fake lawsuits to give the illusion of tribal ownership. Employees at Tucker’s call centers even went so far as to pretend they were on tribal lands when speaking over the phone with customers, discussing the weather in an attempt to mislead consumers as to the true operators of the business.
Tucker’s attorneys plan to appeal the decision. The convictions of Tucker and Muir likely put to rest a business model that threatened the utilization of tribal sovereignty by legitimate tribally-owned businesses.