A tipster (send in your tips here) mentioned something about Andris Pukke still dealing with his criminal case filed by the United States in 2010. Pukke, as you may remember, was charged with crimes related to his debt relief activities and wound up eventually serving jail time. You can see the back history if you click this link.
FYI, it was an 18 month stint in jail for obstruction of justice. – Source
It appears now there is some concern Pukke hid more information from the Court and is being asked to clear up any confusion regarding it.
This story involves debt relief, international development, mystery and childhood relationships. It would make for a great novel.
Most of the public record seems administrative but one item has piqued my curiosity. On August 20, 2015, a summons Pukke received was made public, most likely related to his old case. He was served at the Central District of California Ronald Reagan Federal Building by a United States probation officer. – Source
It could be very routine, we shall see. But this seems to be related to his travel requests out of the country so he can work, in some capacity for a company named Buy Belize, in Mexico. It appears it may be in relation to the Buy International Playa Cortez Los Cabos development in cooperation with Global Property Alliance. – Source
Previous articles, here, were about Pukke’s connection with a development, Sanctuary Belize. His attorney said “Mr. Pukke is widely considered one of the best marketers in the world, thus adding a tremendous value to the project and the current lot owners.” – Source
And in almost every commercial enterprise there are unhappy customers. That is normal. An online search will find information from unhappy or concerned Sanctuary Belize people if you are interested in that sort of stuff.
According to Pukke’s attorney, he is trying to move forward successfully and put his past debt relief and criminal history behind him. But he is still being held back by the Court.
His attorney says, “On October 23, the undersigned spoke to U.S. Probation Officer for the District of Maryland Bryan English to see what if any information Mr. Pukke could provide to alleviate their aforementioned concerns. The undersigned expressed to Mr. English that Mr. Pukke is willing to resign as the executor of his father’s estate, and that Mr. Pukke, through separate counsel, has filed an appeal of the IRS’s proposed collection action. Mr. English indicated that there was virtually no information that Mr. Pukke could provide that would change his mind about Mr. Pukke’s international travel. Mr. Pukke then submitted a motion asking this Court to reconsider its October 11, 2013 Order and to approve a specific trip in November or December 2013. He noted that each of the circumstances about which the California and Maryland Probation Offices had expressed concern existed prior to December 2012, when this Court approved Mr. Pukke’s first trip to Belize. He also provided additional information with respect to his dispute with the IRS, explained his need to travel at least once per quarter, and offered an explanation for his modest salary at Buy Belize. He noted too however, that because Mr. English affirmatively opposed the travel, the United States did as well. On November 26, this Court denied the travel request.” – Source
The Intriguing Bit
It seems Pukke is being called forth to answer some concerns of the United States government. That document is not available to been seen by the public but a documents by Pukke’s attorney says, “On July 29, 2015, less than six weeks before Mr. Pukke’s supervised release is set to expire, Maryland Probation Officer William Tavik submitted a Petition on Supervised Release alleging that Mr. Pukke had failed to disclose certain financial interests and holdings, in violation of a special condition of his supervised release. See Docket No. 38. A hearing “for identification of counsel and [the] setting of further revocation proceedings in order to show cause why [his] supervised release should not be revoked[,]” is scheduled on August 19, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. before the Honorable Jillyn K. Schulze.” – Source
Andris Pukke Truth
In researching this piece I cam across AndrisPukkeTruth.com which appears to desire to clarify information about Andris Pukke.
One page mentions me specifically.
And I’d like an opportunity to speak to the points raised.
Site says: “Steve Rhodes claims to be “The Debt Guy.”
Answer: My name is Steve Rhode, Get Out of Debt Guy.
Site says: “What most people don’t know is that Steve Rhodes previously owned a company called Debt Counselors of America (DCA). DCA was a direct competitor of Ameridebt.”
Answer: Debt Counselors of America, later known as Myvesta, was a non-profit 501(c)3 IRS organization that offered a number of programs and solutions; including an inpatient treatment program for compulsive shoppers, Tax Experts, CPAs, Financial Planners, Lending Experts, Staff Psychologists to help treat underlying money problems, mediators, negotiators, employment specialists, settling debts, and more. One of the programs was a debt management program. Ameridebt offered a similar program, as did every non-profit credit counseling group in the country.
Site says: DCA and Ameridebt were in the exact same business, in the exact same state, offering the exact same services and charging the EXACT SAME FEES TO CONSUMERS AS Ameridebt.
Answer: Well we were in the same state and located about 15 miles apart. But we offered a much broader selection of assistance programs. According to internet archives they identified their services as one program.
Site says: “When Steve Rhodes owned DCA, clearly he felt those services were valuable and legitimate.”
Answer: I did not own DCA. A non-profit organization does not have an owner. “A major misconception about nonprofit organizations concerns ownership of a nonprofit. No one person or group of people can own a nonprofit organization.” – Source
Site says: “Steve Rhodes’ company failed and went out of business.”
Answer: The nonprofit did an orderly close in the U.S. in 2006 when it appeared it would no longer be financially viable to assist consumer across the country with the wide range of services we offered. Rather than provide a lower level of service, Myvesta wound down and closed. Ameridebt was pursued by the Federal Trade Commission starting in 2003.
Site says: “Since Steve Rhodes lost out to Ameridebt, he decided to start https://getoutofdebt.org.
Answer: How did I lose out to Ameridebt?
Site says: “The business model behind his “.org” site is that he profits by selling leads to other debt relief companies and ad space.”
Answer: To the contrary, the model is to answer reader questions to provide free assistance. I also cover activities in the debt relief industry. Here are the details on how the site is funded.
Site says: “Steve Rhodes couldn’t compete with Ameridebt, so his “consolation prize” was creating a new way to profit from their unjust misfortune.”
Site says: “To learn more about one of “the most unscrupulous characters in the debt industry”, simply Google him and see what others have to say or check out his site (which is selling leads to debt consolidation companies) at https://getoutofdebt.org.”
Answer: We all know everything written on the internet must be true, right? If you want to learn about me, click here. If you want to read answers to things others have posted, click here. If you would like to look at untrue reports written about me, click here. You will notice they are all in the 2010-2013 cluster when I was writing a lot about the problems with advanced fee debt settlement programs. Once the regulators and laws clamped down, the complaints died.
It looks like others had some issues as well.
The Andris Pukke Truth site paints a picture of Pukke being unfairly treated by the government. It says, “Although the FTC had sued Ameridebt for $170 million, after some early discussions with Ameridebt’s lawyers, they apparently agreed to settle the whole case for approximately $5 million dollars. So what was the catch? Why wouldn’t Andi just accept the settlement offer and put this whole thing behind him? It turns out that the only way the FTC could accept the money was if Andi agreed to sign a document admitting that they had deceived consumers. He knew that Ameridebt was helping hundreds of thousands of people and that they were fully disclosing all of the fees being charged, so he refused to comply with their demands and walked away from the settlement offer on principle.” – Source
The FTC says, ““Our case alleges that these defendants used their credit counseling business to deceive nearly 300,000 consumers about the services they provide, the fees they charged, and their status as a non-profit company,” said Lydia B. Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This settlement bans the defendants from the credit counseling business permanently and requires them to give up the money they made from this scheme.”
The settlement ends more than two years of litigation against Pukke, effectively securing virtually all of his personal assets, including homes in Miami Beach and Southern California, for use as consumer redress. This settlement is part of a global settlement that also settles the claims of a nationwide class action, Polacsek et al. v. Debticated, et al., No. 04-0631 (D. Md), which had been consolidated for trial with the FTC’s case.
A receiver, appointed by the court in April 2005, to identify and maintain Pukke’s assets, has collected property worth millions of dollars, and the order authorizes him to continue his efforts to locate additional assets. Any amounts the receiver collects, up to $35 million, would go into the redress fund under the settlement. If the receiver collects assets worth more than $35 million, the excess would go into the bankruptcy estate that was created when Pukke filed for bankruptcy last July.” – Source
The FTC also said, “The Federal Trade Commission announced today that the agency returned approximately $12.7 million to consumers this week from a settlement with Andris Pukke and his companies, AmeriDebt, Inc. and DebtWorks, Inc. This consumer redress concludes the largest credit counseling/debt management deception case brought by the FTC. In addition, more than $7 million will be returned to consumers as a result of class-action settlements with the defendants and related credit counseling agencies.
Using the defendants’ records, about 287,000 AmeriDebt consumers have been mailed redress checks. The FTC and individual consumers alleged that AmeriDebt, DebtWorks, and related credit counseling agencies engaged in deceptive practices in promoting and offering credit counseling and debt management plans (DMPs).
Consumers who qualified for redress, a total of about 460,000 consumers, obtained a DMP from one of 11 credit counseling agencies serviced by DebtWorks between January 31, 1998 and October 7, 2004. The agencies were AmeriDebt, Inc., Debticated Consumer Counseling, Inc., A Better Way Credit Counseling, Inc., Credicure, Inc., Mason Credit Counseling, Inc., Nexum Credit Counseling, Inc., Neway, Inc., The Credit Network, Inc., Visual Credit Counseling, Inc., Preactive, Inc., and Debtscape, Inc.
Since May 2006, a court-appointed receiver has been working diligently to identify all possible assets that can be liquidated for consumers’ benefit. The receiver obtained a contempt order against Pukke in March 2007 on the grounds that he had been hiding assets from the receiver. The receiver has been locating and liquidating a wide range of complex assets, including overseas property and property held by family and friends of Pukke.” – Source
More FTC documentation is available here.
I think I’ll let you decide what the truth is.
For the record, I did send an email to the Andris Pukke site to let them know about this article.
My email said, “Hi Erin,
I just published https://getoutofdebt.org/93195/andris-pukke-from-ameridebt-still-dealing-with-courts and would encourage you to please let me know if you find anything in the article in error or wish to contribute a statement for the article. You can do both at https://getoutofdebt.org/report-an-error/
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