A federal judged ordered Joel Tucker, a Prairie Village man with deep ties to Kansas City’s payday lending industry, to serve 12.5 years in prison for dodging taxes and for a scheme that targeted consumers to pay debts they often did not owe.
Tucker, who missed his first sentencing hearing that was scheduled for last week and had a warrant issued for his arrest, was brought to court with his wrists and ankles bound by restraints. U.S. District Court Judge Roseann Ketchmark ordered that Tucker be taken by U.S. Marshals to begin serving his prison sentence immediately.
Tucker was also ordered to pay more than $8 million in unpaid taxes that he owes to the Internal Revenue Service. His total tax bill, with penalties and interest, amounts to nearly $12 million.
Tucker’s prison sentence was more than the 135 months in prison, or just more than 11 years, that federal prosecutors had recommended in their sentencing memorandum. But it was lower than the 15-year maximum term that Ketchmark could have issued under federal sentencing guidelines.
Ketchmark appeared to be particularly disturbed by the fact that Tucker took out an approximately $20,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan, an initiative to help keep businesses afloat and employees paid during the coronavirus pandemic, from the same federal government that Tucker owes millions in taxes to and while he was under federal indictment. PPP loan applications ask if applicants are subject to a criminal indictment at the time they seek the loans, to which Tucker said he wasn’t when, in fact, he was.
“I am just flabbergasted,” Ketchmark said of Tucker getting a PPP loan, adding. “That’s outrageous conduct.”
Tucker’s attorney, J.R. Hobbs, said the PPP loan was paid back.
Hobbs said after sentencing that Tucker accepts responsibility.
Tucker is the brother of Scott Tucker, who is serving a prison sentence of more than 16 years for running what authorities called an exploitative payday loan business that ripped off more than 4 million borrowers.
Joel Tucker pleaded guilty last year to his role in a scheme where he sold to bill collectors consumer data that supposedly reflected unpaid debts from payday lenders but was often inaccurate or didn’t belong to Tucker in the first place. The result, according to authorities, was consumers facing calls and letters from debt collectors demanding payment for amounts they may not have owed.
Tucker was previously sued by the Federal Trade Commission in 2017 for the same scheme, resulting in the FTC obtaining a $4 million judgment against him later that year.
Tucker’s debt selling scheme came to light in 2016 when a federal bankruptcy judge in Texas investigated the origins of payday loan debts that were showing up in consumer bankruptcy cases that couldn’t be substantiated. Debt buyers said they bought the claims from a broker, who said he bought them from Tucker.
Tucker was ordered to testify as part of that investigation. Prosecutors said much of Tucker’s testimony in that case was false.
While Tucker had an unpaid tax bill, federal prosecutors said Tucker lived a lavish lifestyle, one that included private jets, leases for luxury automobiles, fees for a private club in Vail, Colorado, and a credit card bill in excess of $682,000.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.