Criminal Justice

Lawyer and the payday lender he advised are convicted

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A corporate and banking lawyer has been convicted of racketeering conspiracy along with the payday lender he advised on how to avoid state caps on loan interest rates.

Federal jurors in Pennsylvania on Monday convicted 69-year-old Delaware lawyer Wheeler Neff and 76-year-old payday lending pioneer Charles Hallinan, report, Reuters and the Morning Call. Neff is a former deputy attorney general in Delaware.

Prosecutors had claimed Hallinan and Neff paid Native American tribes to pose as actual lenders after a lawsuit by New York’s attorney general foiled their original “rent-a-bank” program to avoid usury lending caps. The original program relied on an agreement with a bank in Delaware, where there are no restrictions on payday lending.

Some of Hallinan’s companies charged interest rates as high as 780 percent.

Neff’s lawyer, Warren Christopher, told Reuters that Neff and Hallinan believed they were acting in good faith and both plan to appeal. Christopher told the Morning Call that both men were operating “legal lending models.”

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