Brandon Frere is either the unluckiest debt relief executive or the first of a trend of debt relief company executives hit with criminal charges.
Brandon was the guy behind American Financial Benefits Center (AFBC).
Like other companies, AFBC first appeared on this site as a result of consumers sending in their junk mail to me.
The marketing pieces looked just as questionable as many other student loan assistance marketing efforts. AFBC was not a standout in that category, just middle of the road dubious.
AFBC took an unusual position of going back after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in an effort to maybe stop the FTC from taking action against American Financial Benefits Center, Ameritech Financial, Financial Education Benefits Center, and Brandon Frere.
In the court document filed, AFBC stated,”Plaintiffs are ready and willing to defend their practices. However, the FTC’s action has affected an entire industry group and demanded unquestioned conformity that poses immediate threats.”
You can see my take on that tactic, here.
The AFBC situation led to a Receiver taking control of the enterprise. The FBI took an interest in the situation. And here is where it gets worrisome for other debt relief providers.
Up to this point, the AFBC action appeared to be your run-of-the-mill meltdown-shutdown by a regulator. The company was taken over by a Receiver and was going to have to hand back some money while other funds were quietly moved.
The FBI took notice and Brandon Frere was arrested at the airport as he was scheduled to fly to Mexico after transferring $400,000.
In this document, the FBI against said, “Based on the timing of Frere’s international travel, his recent substantial transfers of money, millions of dollars in funds that Frere has already transferred overseas, and the issuance of the Preliminary Injunction on November 29, 2018, I believe Frere is a significant flight risk and may be in the process of fleeing the country to avoid criminal prosecution and/or the consequences of the FTC’s fraud action against him.”
Brandon was arrested at the airport and eventually was released from prison to sit under house arrest at his parent’s house.
Frere was facing a couple of decades in jail when he was arrested.
It seems what landed Brandon Frere in criminal hot water is something that other debt relief company executives could be charged with. Frere pled guilty and a sentencing guideline document just out states he has entered into a plea agreement with the government.
The document states, “In the plea agreement, the government and the defendant agreed that a concurrent sentence of 42 months of imprisonment would be an appropriate sentence.”
As a result of Frere’s student loan assistance operation, he is going to jail for wire fraud and money laundering. It appears the sentence agreed to is 43 months in Club Fed and three years probation.
What makes this case very different than others is it appears Brandon Frerestood up to his misdeeds and is accepting responsibility for his actions.
“The parties have agreed upon a significant custodial sentence of 42 months to be followed by three years of supervised release. U.S. Probation supports the agreed-upon resolution. The jointly recommended sentence balances the defendant’s egregious fraud with his almost immediate preindictment acceptance of responsibility and his substantial cooperation in identifying assets laundered overseas. The defendant has also agreed to pay full restitution, to be determined at a separate restitution hearing post-sentencing. All of which will save years of potential domestic and international litigation and is intended to accelerate recovery for the victims while at the same time providing just punishment by ensuring the defendant will remain incarcerated for years. The sentence jointly recommended by the parties and U.S. Probation is therefore reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances, and is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to achieve the goals of sentencing.”
That is certainly refreshing and Frere should be given a pat on the back for that. As a real estate investor told a group I was with, “If you swim with the sharks, don’t cry when you get bit.”
Not that anyone cares what my personal opinion is but Frere going to prison doesn’t bring me any happiness. I would much rather have these difficult lessons learned or appreciated before misleading debt relief services are sold to consumers. Stepping back in time to avoid AFBC would have left Brandon, consumers, and his parents less financially hurt, embarrassed, and/or ashamed.