MANHATTAN (CN) - American Le Mans series champion racer Scott Tucker and his lawyer steered payday loan companies through a $2 billion racketeering spree that took 4.5 million struggling debtors on a ride, federal prosecutors claim.
In an investigation four years ago, the Center for Public Integrity and CBS News chronicled Tucker's "stealth" journey from a "mysterious businessman" to a "famous auto racer."
The revelations of that 2011 expose largely track the allegations of Tucker's indictment, unsealed on Wednesday.
Both allege that Tucker operated a maze of Internet payday loan companies that charged usurious rates as high as 700 percent and operated out of Overland Park, Kansas, a roughly 20-minute drive from where he was arrested Wednesday.
The indictment lists the businesses as Cash Advance (also known as Ameriloan), One Click Cash (formerly called Preferred Cash Loans), United Cash Loans, US Fastcash, 500 Fastcash, Advantage Cash Services and Star Cash Processing.
Six years after setting up shop in 1997, Tucker's companies found themselves in the crosshairs of state regulators in California and Colorado. He turned to Native American groups in Oklahoma and Nebraska to insulate the enterprises with sovereign immunity, prosecutors say.
In 2003, the Miami, Modoc and Santee Sioux tribes allegedly agreed to a play role as the companies' sham owners in what some called a "rent-a-tribe" arrangement.
The businesses funded Tucker's career as a racer, and at age 48, he became American Le Mans rookie of the year in 2010.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that two of the Miami nation's tribal corporations have signed non-prosecution agreements to forfeit $48 million in illicit proceeds.
Tucker, 53, and his attorney Timothy Muir, 44, face up to 85 years in prison if convicted on federal racketeering and Truth in Lending Act charges.
Prosecutors also seek the forfeiture of their bank accounts, vacation home in Aspen, Colorado, six Ferrari race cars, four Porsche automobiles, and a Learjet airplane.