$1.3B award upheld against racecar driver over payday loans
By SUDHIN THANAWALA
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A U.S. appeals court on Monday upheld a nearly $1.3 billion award against a pro racecar driver who was sent to prison following a conviction for cheating consumers through his payday loan businesses.
Information Scott Tucker's companies provided consumers did not accurately disclose the loans' terms, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
The judges also said a lower court did not abuse its authority when it ordered Tucker and other defendants to pay back nearly $1.3 billion.
The case was brought by the Federal Trade Commission, which accused Tucker of deceiving consumers across the U.S. and illegally charging them undisclosed and inflated fees.
An attorney for Tucker, Paul C. Ray, said he was reviewing the decision, but he noted that one of the judges said a larger 9th Circuit panel should rehear the case.
Tucker, from Leawood, Kansas, is a former American Le Mans Series champion who, according to prosecutors, used proceeds from the lending business to finance a professional auto racing team. He was sentenced in January in a related criminal case to more than 16 years in prison on fraud and other charges.
Prosecutors have said he made billions of dollars over more than a decade by exploiting financially struggling Americans, charging them illegal interest rates that sometimes exceeded 1,000 percent.
Over a 15-year period, more than 1 percent of the U.S. population became victims of Tucker's lending enterprise, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel said during Tucker's January sentencing hearing.
The businesses he operated used the names Ameriloan, Cash Advance, OneClickCash, Preferred Cash Loans, United Cash Loans, US FastCash, 500 FastCash, Advantage Cash Services and Star Cash Processing, according to prosecutors.
The 9th Circuit did not rule on Tucker's criminal conviction.
The panel said loan terms that Tucker's businesses provided were deceptive because they did not clearly disclose that loans would automatically renew unless consumers took action. Renewals led to additional finance charges that could amount to as much as $585 in additional payments on a $300 loan, the appeals court panel said.
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