Feds look to seize Aspen home in alleged $2 billion scam

 

Residence bought through loan scheme, indictment says

Federal authorities want to seize the Park Avenue home of race-car driver and part-time Aspenite Scott Tucker, who was arrested Wednesday on charges that he allegedly ran a fraudulent $2 billion payday lending operation.

 

According to a 33-page, four-count indictment handed down by a grand jury Monday, Tucker, 53, used money from companies he secretly controlled to buy the $8 million home at 269 Park Ave., five Ferraris, four Porsches and a Learjet. Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, brought the indictment and also froze bank accounts belonging to Tucker and his wife.

 

Tucker’s various payday firms “systematically exploited over 4.5 million working people throughout the United States who were struggling to pay basic living expenses, including for food and housing,” Bharara wrote.

 

Tucker and his attorney, who was also arrested, used Tucker Payday Lenders, for instance, to make short-term loans and then charged “usurious interest rates as high as 700 percent or more using deceptive and misleading communications and contracts, and in violation of the usury laws of numerous states …,” the indictment says.

 

Tucker has long been on the authorities’ radar. A limited liability company, for which his wife was the authorized signer, bought the local home in 2009, property records show. That was not long after former Colorado attorney general John Suthers subpoenaed him as part of an investigation into his companies.

 

He ignored the subpoena, according to news reports, and one of his firms, AMG Services, paid roughly $17,300 in property taxes on the Aspen home in 2011, according to county records.

 

According to the federal indictment, Tucker put AMG Services in the hands of a Native American tribe — one of several “sham business relationships” — but still controlled the company. The use of the tribe, which has general immunity from state laws, shielded Tucker from numerous lawsuits, prosecutors contend.

 

Suthers on Thursday told the Aspen Daily News that the indictment validated the years-long investigation by federal authorities and his previous office.

 

“I was gratified to see the federal indictment against Scott Tucker,” he said. “Colorado had a long, drawn-out legal battle with Mr. Tucker. We alleged that he was trying to avoid any state regulations of his payday lending businesses by claiming an affiliation with Indian tribes, which was in our opinion not legitimate. I’m very heartened that not only this indictment has come around, but at its essence, when I the read language of the indictment the feds have figured it out.

 

“He shouldn’t be able to hide behind native sovereignty.”

 

The tax allegation about the Aspen property is also mentioned in a 2012 lawsuit against Tucker in Kansas. The class-action complaint alleged he had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

 

“The vast majority of AMG Services Inc.’s revenue is used to pay for defendant Scott Tucker’s personal, non-business-related expenditures, including luxury vehicle leases, private jets, residential mortgage payments, and Ferrari racing endeavors,” the lawsuit alleged.

 

After the payment by AMG Services in 2011, the property taxes were paid by either Tucker’s wife, Kim, or 269 Park Avenue LLC, county records show.

 

No one answered the door at the residence on Thursday. According to property records, it is a 5-bedroom, 6-bath home, and has an elevator, five fireplaces and a guest house. The latter isn’t mentioned in the indictment, which seeks “all right, title and interest” in the main home, “with all improvements, appurtenances and attachments.”

chad@aspendailynews.com