In Session: Virginia Assembly Briefs

‘Tribe for Hire’ Fraud Offered Loans

The television commercials made the loan look so easy: Get $5,000 in your checking account now. The message was delivered by what appeared to be a Native American woman as a tribal drumbeat blared in the background, and the company billed itself as having ties to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. But Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says that was nothing more than a fraud, a scheme he calls "rent-a-tribe.”

“There was a thinly veiled attempt to try to create the appearance to a connection to a tribal entity when in fact they really didn’t have one, and then made people think that state laws like our usury laws didn’t apply,” said Herring, who secured a $15 million settlement this week. “With that kind of a scheme involved it was really important to send a real strong message that as attorney general, I’m going to stand up against that kind of predatory tactic in what we believe was misleading for consumers.”

This week, Herring secured a $15 million settlement against a California-based CashCall that will help 15,000 victims who took 17,000 loans. The settlement includes $6 million worth of absolved debt and $9 million worth of cash payments to victims of the fraud.

The federal judge who approved the settlement did not mince words about the significance of the case.

"When you look at this case,” said Judge John Gibney, "your jaw drops at what a predatory scheme this was."

Long Memories

Election 2016 may have come and gone. But that doesn’t mean that everything that was said and done last year has been forgotten. Some of the heated rhetoric from last year’s election recently overshadowed a bill that would have created a fund for family and medical leave. While explaining his bill, Del. Mark Levine (D-45) said creating the fund would benefit working people, and then be brought up the election.

“Some would say the 2016 election was largely based on struggling working-class people,” said Levine.

Bringing up the election may have been a tactical mistake for Levine.

“We saw what you wrote in a blog about working-class people,” responded Del. Tim Hugo (R-40), referring to a post by Levine on Blue Virginia.

The blog post, which was published just after the election, clearly made an impression among Republicans.

“What were we? Mentally deficient?” asked Del. Peter Farrell (R-56).

“I said people who want to kill Hillary Clinton are mentally deficient,” said Levine.

Skeptical of that answer, Hugo went online and tracked down Levine’s blog post so he could throw Levine’s words back in his face. Just before the Republican-led subcommittee killed Levine’s bill about family and medical leave, Hugo returned to the heated politics of Election 2016.

“What we saw you wrote was that Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax will never be places where homophobia, racism, sexism or religious prejudice will be tolerated,” said Hugo. “Does that mean where all these others are, do you think they tolerate religious prejudice down there?”

“I was speaking for my community,” said Levine. “I know that they are not tolerated in my community.”

At that point, the Republicans voted to kill Levine’s bill.