Big Picture Loans, LLC, Ascension Technologies, Inc., and six individuals are facing claims that they used a Native American tribe as a front to protect their allegedly illegal lending scheme from state and federal regulations. The plaintiffs say they were unlawfully charged over 600% interest on loans from the defendants. According to the complaint, Big Picture Loans associated itself with the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in order to take advantage of tribal immunity and avoid interest caps. The suit argues that in actuality, the tribe had no control over the company’s income or expenses and received a 2% fee in exchange for the use of its name. The tribe was merely “a shield for conduct of questionable legality,” the complaint says.
The suit claims that as other “rent-a-tribe” schemes were revealed, the defendants attempted to cover their actions by selling Big Picture Loans to the tribe and renaming it Ascension Technologies. The complaint argues, however, that the company is still operated by non-tribe members “with minimal tribe involvement.”