Jury convicts race-car driver, part-time Aspen resident, of predatory lending | AspenTimes.com

Jury convicts race-car driver, part-time Aspen resident, of predatory lending

A race-car driver who used ill-gotten gains through a payday-lending scheme to buy an Aspen house was found guilty by a jury in New York for engaging in predatory lending practices that charged borrowers interest rates as high as 700 percent.

A statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said a jury convicted Scott Tucker, 55, on all 14 counts brought against him following a five-week trial in Manhattan. Also convicted on the same charges was Tucker's business associate and attorney Timothy Muir, 46. Both are from Kansas.

"As a unanimous jury found today, Scott Tucker and Timothy Muir targeted and exploited millions of struggling, everyday Americans by charging them illegally high interest rates on payday loans, as much as 700 percent," Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement issued Friday. "Tucker and Muir sought to get away with their crimes by claiming that this $3.5 billion business was actually owned and operated by Native American tribes. But that was a lie. The jury saw through Tucker and Muir's lies and saw their business for what it was — an illegal and predatory scheme to take callous advantage of vulnerable workers living from paycheck to paycheck."

Tucker plans to appeal the verdict, according to published reports.

An LLC controlled by Tucker and his wife, Kim, bought a 5,498-square-foot Aspen home for $8 million in May 2009, according to Pitkin County property records. Tucker was able to sustain his lavish lifestyle, prosecutors said, by making $380 million through his illegal lending business called AMG Services Inc.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Tucker, who competed in the Ferrari Challenge, Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series, could spend up to two decades in prison. His sentencing hearing is set for January, according to court records.

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"The racketeering charges of conspiring to collect unlawful debts each carry up to 20 years in prison, while violations of the Truth in Lending Act each carry a year in prison," the Journal reported. "Mr. Tucker, who has a successful side career as a race-car driver, could also have to forfeit property the government alleges was derived from the schemes, including Ferrari race cars and Porsches, a Learjet airplane and a vacation home in Aspen, according to court documents,"

The internet lending scheme, which was done through issuing small, short-term and unsecured loans, lasted from at least 1997 until 2013, the Department of Justice said.

Located at 269 Park Ave., the Tuckers' home has been part of both the criminal and civil proceedings against Scott Tucker. As part of the proceedings, a federal judge in September 2016 granted summary judgment to the FTC, ordering Tucker and his associated businesses to pay nearly $1.3 billion to the commission.

In November 2016, the same judge ordered that the Tucker-controlled Park 269 LLC had defaulted on an $8 million payment to the FTC as part of the ruling.

The judge also appointed a court "monitor" to work with the home's rental broker to administer "all rental income deposited into the Park 269 account and the only allowable disbursements from that account to be reasonable expenses, as coordinated by the property management company with the cooperation of (Scott and his wife, Kim Tucker), associated with the maintenance, upkeep and taxes owed by Park 269 LLC," the order states.

The six-bedroom, seven-bathroom house currently is advertised for rent at $65,000 a month by Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Aspen.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com