A Prairie Village man who was scheduled to be sentenced Thursday for a phony debt selling scam and evading taxes did not show up and a federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Joel Tucker, whom a top prosecutor in Kansas City once called a “well-dressed thief,” pleaded guilty last year to criminal counts of transporting stolen money, bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion.
How have things worked out for Tucker?
Tucker also owes nearly $12 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. As of May, only $512 had been paid toward that debt, according to court records. Meanwhile, Tucker spent big on himself, such as buying a Cadillac Escalade for $105,367, spending some $226,000 on private jets and $50,000 at a private club in the mountain resort town of Vail, Colorado. […]
Tucker also obtained a Paycheck Protection Program loan, a Small Business Administration program that offered cash to companies that feared the coronavirus pandemic would affect their business. The application for a PPP loan asked applicants whether they were under indictment at the time they sought the loan. Tucker replied that he wasn’t, which was untrue. He received a nearly $21,000 loan.
So what is it that Joel Tucker did, and how damaging were his acts? The Seattle Times relays Bloomberg in their assessment:
A one-time payday-loan mogul was indicted on federal charges that he made up millions of fake debts and sold them to bill collectors, victimizing people across the country.
Joel Tucker, 49, was able to pull off the scheme because he already had his victims’ personal information from loan applications, according to an indictment unsealed June 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. But many of those people never took loans, let alone failed to pay them back, and Tucker didn’t own the loans anyway, prosecutors said. From 2014 to 2016, he earned $7.3 million from packaging and selling the information to collectors, they said.
“Tucker defrauded third-party debt collectors and millions of individuals listed as debtors through the sale of falsified debt portfolios,” according to the indictment. “These portfolios were false in that Tucker did not have chain of title to the debt, the loans were not necessarily true debts, and the dates, amounts and lenders were inaccurate and in some case fictional.”
How bad was it for those who were the subject of fraud? Bloomberg Business tells a scary story:
On the morning a debt collector threatened to rape his wife, Andrew Therrien was working from home, in a house with green shutters on a cul-de-sac in a small Rhode Island town. Tall and stocky, with a buzz cut and a square, friendly face, Therrien was a salesman for a promotions company. He’d always had an easy rapport with people over the phone, and on that day, in February 2015, he was calling food vendors to talk about grocery store giveaways.
Wait, what? Threatened to rape his WIFE?
His search for the ur-source rarely traveled in a straight line. For a time, Therrien focused on Buffalo, one of the poorest cities in the U.S. and a hub for the collections industry—home to agencies that work the oldest, cheapest paper. Debt collector is a more common job there than bartender or construction worker, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As Therrien wore down as many Buffalo collectors as he could, one name kept surfacing: Joel Tucker, a former payday-loan mogul from Kansas City, Mo. By the summer of 2015, Therrien was convinced he’d found his guy.
Joel Tucker had continued to buy up debt, then sell it—including making up fake debt—to debt collectors to harass victims. These victims faced having their credit damaged, and some, when pushed to bankruptcy would cite the fake debt in their filings. Those fake debts—that is where Joel and his brother Scott were found out, along with effective sleuths like Therrien.
According to the regulator, Joel Tucker’s loan lists contained Social Security and bank account numbers, which collection agencies then used to persuade consumers that the debts were real.
In case you are worried, relax. This case, one of the last to go through President Obama’s Department of Justice, settled January 9, 2017—just before Trump’s inaugural, gave Joel Tucker plenty of time to, well, hang out, buy a new car, a place in Colorado, and take out government loans on fraudulent paperwork. Just a few million dollars here and there.
But I’m sure it isn’t at all about privilege. Not a bit. Why, if he had accidentally tried to pass a fake $20 the same way he passed all that fake debt, who knows what might have happened.