Problem Solvers Take on Company Under Federal Investigation
LEAWOOD, Kan. — From race cars to a private jet to an Aspen vacation home, a Kansas businessman is living the good life, but federal investigators say his business is illegal and they want to shut him down.
Wealth can have many trappings and Scott Tucker seems to have acquired most of them. He races $100,000 cars, owns multimillion dollar homes in Aspen, Colorado, and Leawood, Kansas, and criss-crosses the country in a $14 million jet. He’s even graced the pages of a Kansas City magazine that caters to the wealthy.
Scott Tucker is clearly a man who enjoys the limelight in his personal life. But his business life is shrouded in secrecy.
Tucker’s business takes up an entire office building in Johnson County, but FOX 4’s attempts to even walk inside were stopped by a security guards. In addition, employees were ordered not to talk to us, unless we hid their identity, as we did with one former employee who told us she was warned by coworkers never to talk about the owners or the managers or she would be fired immediately.
What does Scott Tucker have to hide? Tucker is an ex con who, after getting out of federal prison 20 years ago on a fraud conviction, hit the big time with an internet payday loan business called AMG Services. And if you’ve ever gotten a payday loan on the internet, you may have done business with AMG, which operates 500 Fast Cash, Ameriloan, US Fast Cash, United Cash Loans and One Click Cash.
Combined, these payday loan companies approve thousands of loans every day, and take in as much as $20 million a month.
But state and federal investigators allege most of the loans are illegal. The feds contend that customers are never told how much the loans will actually cost them — and when they don’t pay, some are threatened with jail.
“This is modern day loan sharking,” said Rick Brinkley of the Better Business Bureau in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He’s been complaining about AMG for years, as his office has compiled more than 3,000 consumer complaints.
“I think what is appalling to everyone who looks at this is how long it has been allowed to continue,” said Brinkley.
Multiple states have filed suit against AMG, but Tucker has so far successfully fought them by striking an ingenious deal with several Native American tribes. Tucker claims to have sold his company to three tribes, which are immune from state prosecution. Regulators are now trying to prove that sale was a sham, alleging that Tucker still controls every bank account.
The feds say he uses AMG earnings to finance his high-octane lifestyle, including his race car enterprise and taxes on his $8 million Aspen vacation home.
A former AMG employee tells FOX 4 Problem Solvers that she was instructed to lie to customers when they asked where she worked. She told them she was in Nebraska, where one of the tribes is located, and not sitting at a desk in Overland Park, Kansas.’
“They gave us a fake address that we were supposed to be out of,” she said. “I don’t even know how to pronounce the name, so it’s a good thing nobody ever asked me.”
Another employee told us that he was instructed to tell customers he was working in Miami, Oklahoma, the home of two other tribes.
We decided it was time to pay the Oklahoma tribes a visit since, according to AMG, a tiny building on one reservation is where a large part of its payday loan empire is now based.
But no one from the tribes would talk to us. In fact, a representative of the Miami Tribe demanded we delete any footage from our camera and would not unlock the door to allow us to leave the building until we did. We refused and she eventually relented and opened the door.
What are the tribes so nervous about? They wouldn’t tell us, but it could be this lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission. It names the tribes, as well as Scott Tucker, his brother Baine and AMG Services, accusing all parties of deceiving the public and enriching themselves by selling illegal payday loans, though the one person who seems to have gotten the richest is Scott Tucker and his wife, who we met while we were taking pictures of his lavish home in Leawood.
The Tuckers never responded to multiple attempts to interview them about the company and its relationship with the Indian tribes. But on Wednesday, Tucker’s attorney’s sent the following statement to FOX 4:
“Mr. Tucker, like all over 150 AMG employees, is bound by a confidentiality agreement and duty bound to issue no comment. With regard to litigation matters Mr. Tucker confronts personally, he continues to successfully defend all such actions.”
AMG’s attorneys have maintained in court filings that the business operates legally and that the federal government doesn’t have sufficient grounds to sue. They’ve asked that all charges be dismissed.
But the case still appears to be headed to court — where Scott Tucker may be forced to explain why he’s still the biggest winner in a payday loan business that he says he no longer owns.