A joint investigation of iWatch News and CBS News
By David Heath
Though Tucker has not won any premier races outright, his publicity machine already compares him to NASCAR superstar Jimmie Johnson. It produced a slick documentary of his team’s third-place finish at a Daytona race which played at film festivals and aired on the Discovery Channel. A glowing Wall Street Journal profile last year dubbed Tucker as "Racing’s One-in-a-Million Story."
iWatch News found that some of Tucker’s tactics are common among businesses operating on the fringes of the law. By setting up a confusing array of shell companies and selling over the Internet, businesses are often able to frustrate state investigators trying to figure out simply who’s who.
But Tucker’s most innovative tactic has given businesses a new, powerful tool for eluding state authorities. The tactic has survived major court challenges, but the practice is so questionable that even storefront payday lenders–hardly known as paragons of business probity–denounce it as unethical.
Tucker has partnered with a number of small Indian tribes to provide his payday lending business with the cloak of tribal sovereign immunity. Under federal law, tribes are equal to states as sovereign powers. So they are immune from being sued in state court.
Tucker says his payday lending businesses are now owned by the Miami and Modoc tribes of Oklahoma as well as the Santee Sioux of Nebraska. However, iWatch News found evidence in court and public records showing that Tucker secretly runs the payday lending business from his offices in Overland Park, Kan.
Lawyers in the Colorado attorney general’s office described Tucker’s tactics as a “web of deceit.” Others refer to it as “rent-a-tribe.”
Complaints Filed Against Miami-Area Tribal Payday Loan Companies
By Lori Fullbright
Why are these companies exempt from state and federal guidelines?
These seven payday loan companies operate almost entirely on the Internet. The Better Business Bureau has received more than 2,000 complaints against them. Companies MTE Financial Services, 500 FastCash, Instant Cash USA and Cash Advance Network all have the same address, and the BBB traced that address to a Casino and Smoke Shop owned by the Modoc Indian Tribe.
Ameriloan, United Cash loans, and USFastCash all have the same address and the BBB found it is the offices for the Miami Nation Indian Tribe.
"The fact the tribe supposedly owns the company is not the problem. It's the business practices," said Rick Brinkley of the Better Business Bureau.
"A tribe can own a company and never generate a complaint, but what makes this unique is because the tribe does own it, state and federal laws do not apply."
For more on the subject, see Native Coalition Defends Payday Loans and Payday Loans Violate Native Values.
Below: "The exterior of Miami Nation Enterprises, which has an online payday lending business that has sovereign status beyond the reach of state regulators." (David Heath/iWatch News)