Kansas City debt fraudster Joel Tucker faces 11 years in prison
Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
Federal prosecutors want Prairie Village con artist Joel Tucker jailed for over 11 years for selling false consumer information to debt collectors and failing to pay millions in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.
Tucker, the brother of former professional racing driver and criminal convicted of payday loans, Scott Tucker, is to be sentenced on June 17 after pleading guilty to multiple interstate transport of stolen money, bankruptcy fraud and of tax evasion.
Prosecutors are urging a federal judge to sentence Tucker to 135 months in prison and make him pay more than $ 8 million in unpaid taxes he owes to the IRS.
“Tucker broke the law for many years and his justice is long overdue,” the government memo reads. “Those who have seen him cheat and lie, and not even pretend to care about his fellow Americans, should see that his behavior is not rewarded with a slap on the wrist.”
Tucker’s lawyer argued in a lawsuit filed Monday that Tucker should not face more than nine years in prison.
A 2018 grand jury indicted Tucker after hearing evidence he sold spreadsheets to debt collection agencies that allegedly contained unpaid consumer debt. However, these spreadsheets were bogus; consumers did not owe the debts listed in the documents that Tucker sold to collectors.
Debt collectors buy unpaid bills from businesses for pennies on the dollar in the hope that they will be better able to charge consumers than the businesses from which the debt originates. Diligent debt buyers need a chain of ownership and other proof that the debt is valid before they make the purchase, but many don’t.
Prosecutors said Tucker’s fraudulent sales led consumers to take phone calls and mail from debt collection agencies. Some of these consumers have paid off debts they don’t really have.
Tucker’s plan was revealed in 2016 when bankruptcy judges across the country noticed thousands of consumer bankruptcy cases where collection agencies suddenly struggled to prove the validity of debts they allegedly owed to them. debtors.
A Texas judge has opened an investigation which found Tucker to be the source of the suspicious allegations.
Tucker was brought to Texas to explain himself in court. Prosecutors said Tucker lied several times during his affidavit. The judge ordered Tucker to compile records of his debt records, but later found that Tucker had not provided any information he requested or created fictitious data to provide to the court.
The Texas judge referred the case to the Department of Justice.
Tom Kirkendall, a Houston attorney who represented one of the debtors stranded on one of Tucker’s counterfeit wallets, said Tucker’s plan was unusual.
“I’ve been practicing for over 40 years and seen a lot – I was very involved in the Enron case, so I saw a lot,” Kirkendall said. “But Tucker was very daring. He was definitely on the edge of the envelope. I don’t know what drove him. “
Tucker even relied on his brother’s payday loan companies to create his fake debt portfolios. One of Scott Tucker’s brands for payday loans was 500FastCash. The company has received more than 1,000 complaints from people harassed by outside debt collection agencies demanding reimbursement of bills they did not owe.
In total, Joel Tucker received $ 7.3 million for his worthless paper.
In their guilty note, prosecutors called Tucker a serial liar who used his illicit profits to fund a lavish lifestyle and acted as though he would suffer no consequences for his actions.
They pointed out that Tucker owed the IRS $ 8 million in unpaid taxes and had made little progress in paying off that bill, including not even a dollar in taxes paid on his income since 2014.
Tucker told an IRS agent he had no money to pay the government, but investigators learned he was making lavish purchases, such as luxury vehicle rentals, charter from private jets, paying six-figure credit card bills and staying in upscale hotels at very high prices. places like Vail, Colorado.
“The United States has been trying to collect money from Tucker for over a decade, and Tucker has evaded payment at every turn,” the government note read. “He lied many times, used courier companies and bank accounts to hide his money, used a friend to hide his money and paid nothing while earning millions from fraud.”
The Federal Trade Commission, a consumer watchdog, sued Tucker over his portfolio of debts, fining him $ 4 million in 2017.
More recently, Tucker received a loan of $ 20,833 from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, created during the coronavirus pandemic last year to help businesses pay rent and keep employees on their payroll. pays while the economy was devastated by the health emergency.
One of the questions applicants need to answer is whether they will be charged for the loan Tucker was on when he applied. Tucker said no and received the proceeds according to the prosecutor’s note.
Tucker’s attorney JR Hobbs said in a note the judge should consider a sentence of 87 to 108 months, arguing that Tucker takes full responsibility for his actions. Hobbs’ note indicates that Tucker is looking after his mother, who has health issues, and caring for his two children.
“Mr. Tucker understands and regrets how his wrongdoing has affected his family, friends and the community,” reads Hobbs’ memo, further urging Tucker to participate in a prison treatment program for inmates with disabilities. history of alcoholism and drugs.
Hobbs did not respond to a request for comment on Tucker’s conviction.
In an email response to The Star, Tucker said his sentence had been delayed, despite Tuesday’s court record reflecting a June 17 sentencing hearing confirmed by a spokesperson for the State Attorney General. United for the western borough of Missouri.
“We are still working on our own and still have a lot to do,” Tucker said.
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Steve Vockrodt is an award-winning investigative journalist who has worked in Kansas City since 2005. His reporting interests include business, politics, legal issues, and late-breaking investigations. Vockrodt grew up in Denver and studied journalism at the University of Kansas.