Crime

Judge won’t let Overland Park payday loan lawyer out of prison while he appeals case

Tim Muir, an Overland Park attorney who is serving a prison sentence for helping payday loan magnate Scott Tucker build his expansive and illegal business, had hoped to get out of prison while judges consider the appeal of his conviction.

But on Wednesday, the New York judge who sentenced Muir to 84 months in prison last year denied that request, saying that Muir’s appeal “does not raise a substantial question of fact or law.”

As a result, Muir, 47, will remain behind bars at the Moshannon Valley Correctional Institution in Philipsburg, Pa., where he is scheduled to remain locked up until April 1, 2024.

Muir was tried and convicted alongside Tucker in 2017 after the pair, along with many others, built a payday loan empire that federal prosecutors said grew to a $2 billion business that exploited 4.5 million customers with deceptive loan terms and usurious interest rates in the range of 700 percent.

Payday loans are short-term loans extended to people who generally cannot obtain credit elsewhere and are charged with higher interest rates to hedge for the possibility that they won’t be able to repay. The industry says it’s the only way for lower income Americans to obtain credit for emergencies while critics counter that the loans often trap borrowers into endless cycles of debt.

Tucker, who funded his professional car racing career with the fortune he made on payday loans, was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison.

Muir was the general counsel for one of Tucker’s businesses, AMG Services, that was central to their payday loan enterprise. Muir, who was arrested and charged in February 2016, was accused of helping orchestrate bogus relationships between Tucker’s payday loan businesses and American Indian tribes that cannot be regulated by state laws on interest rates.

In Muir’s appeal, which he wrote and filed himself, he claimed that errors in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury and problems with his convictions under the Truth In Lending Act robbed him of a fair trial and had a good chance of resulting in an appellate court reversing the convictions or ordering a new trial. Tucker is also appealing.

Judge Kevin Castel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York noted in his order Wednesday that Muir is unlikely to flee while on bail. But Castel did not determine that Muir’s appeal was persuasive enough to offer the rare opportunity for bail to a prisoner while an appeal is under consideration.

Muir, who is from Australia, is likely to be deported when his sentence expires, according to Castel’s ruling.

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Steve Vockrodt is an award-winning investigative journalist who has reported in Kansas City since 2005. Areas of reporting interest include business, politics, justice issues and breaking news investigations. Vockrodt grew up in Denver and studied journalism at the University of Kansas.
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