The Department of Justice this week charged a payday lender with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and mail fraud, and aiding and abetting mail fraud. Although there is even more, here is the gist of the government's case:
According to the information unsealed today, between 1998 and 2012, Rubin owned, controlled, financed, and/or worked for multiple businesses that issued short-term loans, commonly known as “payday loans.” Rubin allegedly conspired with other people to evade state usury laws and other restrictions on payday loans by engaging in a series of deceptive business practices that included: (a) paying a federally-insured bank, which was not subject to state laws, to pretend that it was the payday lender; (b) relocating his operations to a state considered “usury friendly;” and (c) paying an Indian tribe to pretend that it was the actual payday lender as part of a scheme to have the tribe claim that “sovereign immunity” prevent application of state usury laws and other regulations.
Pennsylvania law makes it a crime to collect interest, fees, and other charges associated with a loan at a rate in excess of 36 percent per year. Payday loans are short-term loans of relatively small amounts of money, usually a few hundred dollars, which borrowers promise to repay out of their next paycheck or regular income payment, such as a social security check. Some loans have finance charges or fees of between 10 and 30 percent of the amount borrowed. Given the short-term nature of these loans, those charges can translate to annual percentage rates of interest (“APR”s) of 260 to 780 percent.
The Department of Justice press release has additional details.