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Loans Bad Credit Online – Loans Bad Credit Online – Loans Bad Credit Online – North Charleston councilman caught in web of financial troubles | News | Fintech Zoom | Fintech Zoom | Fintech Zoom



Loans Bad Credit Online – Loans Bad Credit Online – Loans Bad Credit Online – North Charleston councilman caught in web of financial troubles | News | Fintech Zoom | Fintech Zoom

Loans Bad Credit Online – Loans Bad Credit Online – North Charleston councilman caught in web of financial troubles | News | Fintech Zoom

Loans Bad Credit Online – North Charleston councilman caught in web of financial troubles | News

NORTH CHARLESTON — Decades after failed runs for local elected office, Jerome Heyward finally got his shot in 2019, grabbing a council seat in the state’s third-largest city.

Heyward, who had recently moved to North Charleston, billed himself during his campaign as “a self-motivated professional with a record of results.” But the long-awaited victory for the sole newcomer on the 10-member City Council has been clouded by a troubled financial history that has only grown worse, records show.  

After three bankruptcies and two unsuccessful business ventures, the former police officer and Statehouse lobbyist finds himself more than $1 million in debt and facing years of unpaid taxes.

What’s more, federal authorities are investigating a mortgage official and company that were involved in loans Heyward and others received from a Charleston credit union, court records show. Federal prosecutors say the mortgage official’s company generated or underwrote an “alarming number of highly questionable loans” while partnering with the credit union, according to subpoena documents.

That credit union is now under federal control and battling for its survival as it fends off a lawsuit Heyward filed against it last year. He alleges the credit union’s board of directors improperly refused to provide him a loan on top of three others he had already received. In court records, former board members counter that Heyward failed to fully disclose his problematic finances.

In interviews, the councilman answered few questions about his debts, asking why his finances were even a story.

“The whole country’s upside down, I’m not the only one,” he said. “But y’all seem to think I’m the only one.” 

Heyward, like all other members of council, serves on the Finance Committee and helps oversee the city’s $127 million annual budget. When asked if his debts affected his ability to serve on City Council, Heyward said he has “no problem making sound decisions.”

Still, some political observers expressed concern over how his precarious financial state might weigh on Heyward in the nearly three years left in his term.

“Anything that makes an elected official vulnerable can be problematic,” said Kendra Stewart, a political science professor at the College of Charleston.

For his part, Mayor Keith Summey said he had heard rumors of Heyward’s financial difficulties but had no direct knowledge of them. Heyward worked as a community liaison for city officials, including Summey, before winning his seat on council. 

“He’s working for the district,” said Summey, the city’s mayor for nearly 30 years. “Everything that I’ve seen has been kosher.” 

Ups and downs

Heyward’s road to City Council was bumpy, and not just when it came to money. 

He worked as a Charleston police officer before he was fired in 1992 for allegedly associating with a suspected drug dealer, The Post and Courier reported at the time. He denied the accusation. During that decade, he also ran unsuccessfully for seats on Charleston City Council and Charleston County Council. He later became a lobbyist in Columbia. 

In 2007, with his own political consulting business up and running, Heyward created a limousine bus service, court records show. Three years later, he opened a nonprofit cafe along U.S. Highway 17 in Charleston’s West Ashley community. 

7 Cafe featured a bar and food options that included fried pork chops, chicken and turkey wings, ox tail and ribs, The Post and Courier reported in 2010. The establishment celebrated Saturday mornings with a shrimp-and-grits breakfast, along with live jazz.  

But both the limo business and the cafe “suffered substantial losses” and stopped operating, leaving Heyward unable to pay his taxes and other debts, according to a 2016 bankruptcy filing. 

Heyward listed nearly $950,000 in liabilities, more than double his assets. It was his third bankruptcy since 1997, records show.

In 2017, Heyward started working as a community liaison, assisting Summey and other city officials “in establishing and maintaining a positive rapport with the citizens of North Charleston,” according to a job description provided by city spokesman Ryan Johnson. The part-time job involved responding to complaints and attending community meetings and events, the description said.

In 2019, Heyward’s final year on the job, he made nearly $42,000, Johnson said.

Two of Heyward’s long-running consulting agreements are publicly known. One, which began in December 2016, was with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. Then-Sheriff Al Cannon paid Heyward $5,000 a month to advise him on community issues, particularly related to Black residents, and on pending legislation because of Heyward’s connections with influential state lawmakers.

SC state police find no evidence of threats in North Charleston councilman's statements

In early 2019, Heyward signed another deal: to work as a consultant for Charleston County government for “services related to the procurement of state funding” to help address the county’s transportation needs, according to the agreement.

The county’s current and former administrators have declined to discuss the deal or say what the consultant accomplished. Heyward was eventually paid $7,000 per month. 

With his flow of income steady, Heyward bought a condominium in a gated North Charleston community near the Ashley River, records show.

Financial support 

The loan for the condominium came from Community Owned Federal Credit Union, which was co-founded in 1966 by civil rights icon Esau Jenkins to give Black residents in the Lowcountry better access to capital denied to them by other financial institutions.

A half-century later, Community Owned Federal Credit Union had grown but remained small, despite a long-running desire, and attempts, to expand its reach. Its limitations, at times, frustrated members, who saw modern services more widely available at other banks and credit unions. 

In March 2019, then-credit union CEO Perrin Middleton signed a deal with a company called Westminster Mortgage of America to join with the credit union to provide residential and commercial loans, The Charleston Chronicle reported at the time. 

Vincent Terry, who would go on to run the company, told credit union officials that he would underwrite loans that another company had agreed to buy. Terry maintained the plan posed little risk to the credit union, as it would be fully reimbursed for the loans, prosecutors stated in court records.

It was an arrangement that Robert Smalls, a former chairman of the credit union’s board, would come to regret. 

“I believe if we really knew the history of (Westminster Mortgage of America), we wouldn’t have touched them,” said Smalls, who noted he resigned from the board last year. “Getting involved with Westminster was a bad move.”

Federal prosecutors, in a court filing, say Terry did not tell credit union officials that he was about to surrender his mortgage loan originator license in Georgia. He was accused of purposefully withholding documents and for “failing to demonstrate character and general fitness such as to command the confidence of the community,” according to a consent order from Georgia banking and finance regulators. Nor did Terry tell credit union leaders he had filed for bankruptcy nine times in Georgia, including most recently in January 2019, according to court records.

With the credit union’s new mortgage division up and running, Heyward came to the institution in 2019 to buy the North Charleston condominium in the Reverie on the Ashley community, records show. Despite his previous financial problems, Heyward received a $459,000 mortgage in August of that year to make the purchase.

“The loan was approved, and I couldn’t approve a loan by myself, so you figure that out,” Heyward said in an interview, when questioned about the loan.

Former members of the credit union’s board, in court records, accuse Heyward of not disclosing his 2016 bankruptcy case when applying for the loan. When reached by a reporter, they declined to comment, citing the ongoing lawsuit and the federal takeover of the credit union. 

Charleston credit union founded by civil rights icon is taken over

Debts add up

With his new home secured, Heyward tried his luck at elected office once again, running for a seat on North Charleston City Council.

Nearly three dozen donors pitched in to support his campaign, raising a little over $12,500. Among the largest was a Vincent Terry, listed as a business owner in Georgia, who gave Heyward $1,000 less than a month before the election, according to a campaign filing. The Post and Courier could not confirm if it was the same Vincent Terry that ran Westminster Mortgage of America. 

Heyward, in an initial interview, said he and Terry were “not associates.” He declined to discuss Terry in a subsequent interview, which he ended early, telling a reporter not to call him again. 

In November 2019, Heyward defeated incumbent Todd Olds by 75 votes for council’s District 5 seat. The district covers a southern stretch of the city that borders the Ashley River and includes most of the area adjoining Leeds Avenue, near Interstate 526. 

Soon after winning, he lost several consulting clients between the election and when he took office in January 2020, leading to a reduction of roughly $16,000 per month in income, according to a recent bankruptcy filing. His part-time job with North Charleston also ended during that period. 

His consulting agreements with the Sheriff’s Office and Charleston County were both terminated within his first six months of taking office. Then, the State Law Enforcement Division investigated Heyward for comments he made in response to a column, written by freelance columnist Steve Bailey, in The Post and Courier.

Bailey raised concerns about the councilman’s county consulting contract and Heyward’s vote, as a member of the county aviation board, that helped then-County Council Chairman Elliott Summey land a job as the Charleston airport’s new CEO.

Heyward felt the column targeted him as a Black elected official and called it unfair and inaccurate. In a social media video, he said he might use an “AR” and go “hunting” in response. SLED determined that Heyward had no plan or intent to harm anyone.

In the meantime, his financial distress continued.

Heyward has not paid federal taxes for at least four years and has been unable to make all payments agreed to as part of his 2016 bankruptcy, which has resulted in a tax liability of $486,000, according to court documents filed last month. He also has at least two unpaid federal tax liens, records show. 

The state Department of Revenue also has liens on Heyward, his consulting business and his former cafe, which total more than $177,000, records show.

And a separate credit union in January filed to foreclose on a Charleston home the councilman has owned for over a decade, according to court documents. 

Heyward, in an interview, said he is on a payment plan for his federal taxes and that his payments are current. He also said he has contracts to sell both the Charleston home and his North Charleston condominium. 

Robert Pohl, Heyward’s attorney for his 2016 bankruptcy, did not respond to emails and a voicemail seeking comment.

But in a Feb. 16 filing, Pohl said that attempts to modify the payment plan Heyward agreed to “would be futile” due to his dramatic loss in income in 2019 and his federal tax bill. He asked a judge to dismiss Heyward’s bankruptcy case so the councilman could “negotiate individual settlements” with those he owes money. 

Jerome Heyward West Ashley home.JPG

Jerome Heyward’s home in Charleston was listed for sale earlier this year. Heyward’s mortgage lender filed to foreclose on the property in January 2021. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

A new home rises

After his 2019 election win, Heyward approached Community Owned Federal Credit Union and Westminster Mortgage of America’s Vincent Terry for an $80,000 loan to cover the purchase of a vacant North Charleston lot near the Ashley River where he decided to build a house. He returned to the credit union in April 2020 for an additional $90,400 to cover construction costs, court and mortgage records show.

After he received the money in May 2020, he went back to the credit union again and asked for nearly $118,500 more for the project, according to court documents.

What happened next is disputed. 

Heyward, in his lawsuit, said the credit union’s then-board of directors conspired to refuse the loan, despite previously agreeing to honor it. Former board members, in court records, said they had not approved the loan and were not obligated to pay the money. 

Whatever the case, Heyward’s latest home turned into another financial burden. 

Before work on the new property finished, contractor Gerald Neal filed a lien against Heyward, saying he was owed $234,000, records show. 

Neal, in an interview, said he “quit and left the home” unfinished when he filed the lien, which was recorded in September.

Jerome Heyward North Charleston home.JPG

In 2020, North Charleston City Councilman Jerome Heyward purchased a vacant lot before construction on this home began. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

But work on the property continued at some point after Neal left. North Charleston issued a certificate of occupancy for the home on Jan. 7, records show. 

Heyward declined to comment on the lawsuit, as did his attorney in that matter, Zachary Closser. Heyward, in court records, said the credit union caused him “irreparable harm” by not honoring the additional loan request.

Drew Butler, an attorney for nearly all of the credit union’s former board members, did not respond to phone and email messages requesting comment. Neither did Daryl Hawkins, who is representing Community Owned Federal Credit Union.

But it’s clear from court records that loans like Heyward’s have caused problems for the credit union, as well. 

Eventually, Terry would admit to board members that he, and Westminster Mortgage of America, largely underwrote or generated unsecured, or virtually unsecured, loans from the credit union for himself, his relatives, associates and friends, federal prosecutors said in a court filing. Almost all of the loans are in default and none was ever purchased by a legitimate mortgage company, as Terry had promised, the prosecutors said in the court filing.

The prosecutors did not say in court records if those loans include the three that Heyward received from the credit union in recent years. But federal officials have subpoenaed Terry for documents related to roughly two dozen entities and individuals, including Heyward. The individuals listed are ones who Terry “may have associated and/or interacted with” regarding loans underwritten by Westminster Mortgage of America or those submitted to the credit union for funding, according to court records. 

Terry did not respond to phone, email and LinkedIn messages requesting comment. Perrin Middleton, the credit union’s former CEO, did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.

In January, the National Credit Union Administration placed the credit union into conservatorship for “unsafe and unsound practices.” A spokesman for the federal agency declined to provide more details.

Community Owned Federal Credit Union, which had a little over $4 million in assets as of December, continues to operate. Links to Westminster Mortgage of America no longer appear on its website. The credit union’s current manager declined to comment. 

As for Heyward, it is unclear how the councilman will address his own financial woes as he continues in his second year in office.

His salary for serving on council is set at $20,657 and his seat on the Charleston County Aviation Authority board nets him a $35 per diem every meeting. How much money he makes from his consulting business is unknown, as he did not disclose an amount on a filing with the State Ethics Commission last year. 

And now his mountain of debts includes money owed to the credit union. Two loans, worth more than $170,000, are supposed to be paid off by May 1, mortgage records show. The third, for $459,000, is due in 2029. 

John McDermott contributed from Charleston. 

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Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders



Illustration by Sarah Maxwell, Folio Art

When Bridget Davis got started in the family’s payday lending business in 1996, there was just one Check ’n Go store in Cincinnati. She says she did it all: customer service, banking duties, even painting walls.

The company had been established two years earlier by her husband, Jared Davis, and was growing rapidly. There were 100 Check ’n Go locations by 1997, when Jared and Bridget (née Byrne) married and traveled the country together looking for more locations to open storefront outlets. They launched another 400 stores in 1998, mostly in strip malls and abandoned gas stations in low-income minority neighborhoods where the payday lending target market abounds. Bridget drove the supply truck and helped select locations and design the store layouts.

But Jared soon fired his wife for committing what may be the ultimate sin in the payday lending business: She forgave a customer’s debt. “A young woman came to pay her $20 interest payment,” Bridget wrote in court documents last year during divorce proceedings from Jared. “I pulled her file, calculated that she had already paid $320 to date on a principle [sic] loan of $100. I told her she was paid in full. [Jared] fired me, stating, ‘We are here to make money, not help customers manage theirs. If you can’t do that, you can’t work here.’ ”

Photograph by Brittany Dexter

It’s a business philosophy that pays well, especially if you’re charging fees and interest rates of 400 percent that can more than triple the amount of the loan in just five months—the typical time most payday borrowers need to repay their debt, says the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization focused on public policy. Cincinnati-based Check ’n Go now operates more than 1,100 locations in 25 states as well as an internet lending service with 24/7 access from the comfort of your own home, according to its website. Since its founding, the company has conducted more than 50 million transactions.

What the website doesn’t say is that many, if not most, of those transactions were for small loans of $50 to $500 to working people trying to scrape by and pay their bills. In most states—including Ohio, until it reformed its payday lending laws in 2019—borrowers typically fork over more than one-third of their paycheck to meet the deadline for repayment, usually in two weeks. To help guarantee repayment, borrowers turn over access to their checking account or deposit a check with the lender. In states that don’t offer protection, customers go back again and again to borrow more money from the same payday lender, typically up to 10 times, driving themselves into a debt trap that can lead to bankruptcy.

Jared and Bridget Davis are embroiled in a nasty court battle related to his 2019 divorce filing in Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court. Thousands of pages of filings and 433 docket entries by April 26 offer the public a rare glimpse into the business operations of Check ’n Go, one of Cincinnati’s largest privately-owned companies, as well as personal lifestyles funded by payday lending.

The company cleared $77 million in profit in 2018, a figure that dipped the following year to $55 million, according to an audit by Deloitte. That drop in revenue may have something to do with the payday lending reform laws and interest rate caps passed recently in Ohio as well as a growing number of other states.

The day-to-day business transactions that provide such profit are a depressing window into how those who live on the edge of financial security are often stuck with few options for improving their situations. If a borrower doesn’t repay or refinance his or her original loan, a lender like Check ’n Go deposits the guarantee check and lets it bounce, causing the borrower to incur charges for the bounced check and eventually lose his or her checking account, says Nick DiNardo, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. After two missed payments, payday lenders usually turn over the debt to a collection agency. If the collection agency fails to collect the full amount of the original loan as well as all fees and interest, it goes to court to garnish the borrower’s wages.

That devastating experience is all too familiar to Anthony Smith, a 60-year-old Wyoming resident who says he was laid off from several management positions over a 20-year period. He turned to payday lenders as his credit rating dropped and soon found himself caught in a debt trap that took him years to escape.

Two things happened in 2019, Smith says, that turned around his financial fortunes. First, he found a stable manufacturing job with the Formica Company locally, and then he took his mother’s advice and opened a credit union account. GE Credit Union not only gave him a reasonable loan to pay off his $2,500 debt but also issued him his first credit card in a decade. “I had been a member [of the credit union] for just two months, and I had a credit rating of 520. Can you imagine?” he says. Smith says he is now debt-free for the first time in 10 years.

Consumer advocates say Check ’n Go is one of the biggest payday lending operations in the nation. But knowing its exact ranking is difficult because most payday lending companies, including Check ’n Go and its parent company CNG Holdings, are privately held and reluctant to disclose their finances.

Brothers Jared and David Davis own the majority of the company’s privately held stock. David bought into the company in 1995, but CNG got its game-changing infusion of capital from the brothers’ father, Allen Davis, who retired as CEO of then-Provident Bank in 1998. Allen sold off $37 million in stock options and essentially became CNG’s bank and consultant.

By 2005, however, the sons were part of a public court battle against their father. Allen accused Jared and David of treating his millions in CNG stock as compensation instead of a transfer from his ex-wife (and the brothers’ mother), sticking him with a $13 million tax bill. In turn, the brothers accused Allen of putting his mistress and his yacht captain on the company payroll, taking $1.2 million in fees without board approval, and leading the company into ventures that lost Check ’n Go a lot of money. Several years of legal fighting later, the IRS was still demanding its $13 million. CNG officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Jared and David split $22 million in profit from CNG in 2018 and, according to the Deloitte audit, CNG’s balance sheet showed another $42 million that could be split between the two brothers in 2019. Jared, however, elected not to receive his $21 million distribution “in order to create this artificial financial crisis and shelter millions of dollars from an equitable split between us,” according to Bridget’s divorce filing.

Worse, she claims, Jared said they would be responsible for paying taxes out of their personal accounts rather than from CNG’s company earnings, making her personally responsible for half of the $5.5 million in taxes for 2019. She believes it wasn’t happenstance that $5.5 million was wired to Jared’s private bank account in December of that same year. Bridget has refused to sign the joint tax return, and Jared filed a complaint with the court saying a late tax filing would cost them $1 million in penalties and missed tax opportunities.

“For the duration of our marriage and to the present, Jared has full and complete control of all money paid to us from various investments we have made in addition to our main source of income, CNG,” Bridget wrote in her motion. She suspects that Jared, without her knowledge or consent, plowed the money for their taxes and from other sources of income into Black Diamond Group, the fund that invests in the Agave & Rye restaurant chain. Beyond the original restaurant opened in Covington in 2018, “they have opened four other locations in one year,” she wrote, including Louisville and Lexington. (The ninth location opened in Hamilton this spring.) Agave & Rye’s website touts its Mexican fare as “a chef-inspired take on the standard taco, elevating this simple food into something epic!”

In his response, Jared wrote, “We have very limited regular sources of income.” He says he isn’t receiving any additional distributions from CNG, the couple’s primary source of income, “and this is not within my control. The company has declared that we would not make any further distributions in 2020 given economic circumstances. This decision is based on a formula and is not discretionary.” Agave & Rye helped produce $645,000 in income for Black Diamond in 2020 but has paid out $890,000 in loans, he says. Through August 31, 2020, he wrote, the couple’s “expenses have exceeded income from all sources.”

The divorce case filings start slinging mud when the couple accuses each other of breaking up their 22-year marriage and finding new partners. Jared claims Bridget began an affair during their marriage with Brian Duncan, a contractor she employed through her house flipping business. Bridget, he says, paid Duncan’s company $75,000 in 2018 as well as giving him a personal gift of $70,000 that same year. Jared says she also bought Duncan at least one car and purchased a house for him near hers on Shawnee Run Road for $289,000, then loaned money to Duncan. Jared says Duncan has been late in repaying the note.

While Bridget says Duncan has been drug-free for several years, he has a rap sheet with Hamilton County courts from 2000 to 2017 that runs five pages long. It lists a half-dozen counts of drug abuse and drug possession, including heroin and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia; assaulting a police officer; stealing a Taser from a police officer; criminal damaging while being treated at UC Health; more than a dozen speeding and traffic violations; a half-dozen counts of driving with a suspended license; receiving stolen property; twice fleeing and resisting arrest; three counts of theft; two counts of forgery; and one count for passing bad checks.

Bridget has fired back that Jared not only is hiding his money from her but spending it lavishly on vacations, resorts, and high-end restaurants with his new girlfriend, Susanne Warner. Bridget says Jared gifted Warner with $40,000 without Bridget’s knowledge, then declared it on their joint tax return as a “contribution.” Bridget’s court filings include photocopies of social media posts of Jared and Warner globetrotting from summer 2019 to summer 2020: vacation at Beaver Creek Village in Avon, Colorado; cocktails at High Cotton in Charleston, South Carolina, and dinner at Melvyn’s Restaurant and Lounge in Palm Springs, California; getaways at resorts in Nashville and at a lakefront rental on Norris Lake ($600 per night); in the Bahamas at a Musha Cay private residence ($57,000 per night), at South Beach in Miami, and at a private beach at Fisher Island; in Mexico at Cabo San Lucas; in the U.S. Virgin Islands at Magen’s Bay and on a private yacht ($4,500 per night); in California at Desert Hot Springs, the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, and Montage at Laguna Beach; and in the Bahamas at South Cottage ($2,175 per night).

For her part, Bridget has gone through some of the top lawyers in town faster than President Trump during an impeachment—six in all, two of whom she’s sued for malpractice. She sent four binders of evidence to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking for the recusal of Hamilton County Judge Amy Searcy and claiming Searcy was biased because of campaign donations from Jared and his companies. Rather than deal with the list of questions sent to her by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Searcy stepped down. Two other judges have since stepped into the fray, and in March Bridget filed for a change of venue outside of Hamilton County, arguing she can’t get a fair trial in her hometown. At press time, a trial date had been set for June 28 in Hamilton County.

The poor-mouthing in the divorce case has reached heights of comic absurdity. Jared claims he’s “illiquid” because he didn’t get his distribution from CNG in 2019. Bridget has received debt collection notices for the nearly $21,000 owed on her American Express card and a $735 bill from Jewish Hospital. There’s no sign yet that anyone is coming to repossess her Porsche, which according to her filings has a $5,000 monthly payment. Each party has received $25,000 a month in living expenses, an amount later reduced to $15,000 under a temporary legal agreement while the divorce case is being sorted out. Court filings show that Jared’s net worth is almost $206 million and Bridget’s is $22.5 million.

In the early 1990s, Allen Davis was raising eyebrows at Provident Bank (later bought by National City), and not only because of his very unbanker-like look of beard, ponytail, and casual golf wear. He was leading the company into questionable subprime home loans for people with bad credit and a frequent-shopper program for merchants, though the bank’s charter barred him from getting involved in full-blown predatory lending practices. With guidance and funding from his father, Jared, at age 26, launched Check ’n Go in 1994 and became a pioneer in the payday lending industry. Jared and his family saw there were millions of Americans who didn’t have checking or savings accounts (“unbanked”) or an adequate credit rating (“underbanked”) but still needed loans to meet their everyday expenses. What those potential customers did have was a steady paycheck.

Conventional banks share a big part of the blame for the nation’s army of unbanked borrowers by imposing checking account fees and onerous penalties for bounced checks. In 2019, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimated there were 7.1 million U.S. households without a checking or savings account.

The Davises launched Check ’n Go on the pretext that it would “fill the gap” for people who occasionally needed to borrow money in a hurry—a service for those who couldn’t get a loan any other way. But consumer advocates say the real business model for payday lending isn’t a service at all. The majority of the industry’s revenue comes from repeat business by customers trapped in debt, not from borrowers looking for a quick, one-time fix for their financial troubles.

Ohio’s payday lending lobbyists got a strong hold on the state legislature in the late 1990s, and by 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray could rightfully claim in a campaign ad that “Ohio’s [payday lending] laws are now the worst in the nation. Things have gotten so bad that it is legal to charge 594 percent interest on loans.” His statement was based on a 2014 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The frustration for consumer advocates was that Ohioans had been trying to reform those laws since 2008, when voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative placing a 28 percent cap on the interest of payday loans. But—surprise!—lenders simply registered as mortgage brokers, which enabled them to charge unlimited fees.

The Davis family and five other payday lending companies controlled 90 percent of the market back then, an express gravy train ripping through the poorest communities in Ohio. The predatory feeding frenzy, especially in Ohio’s hard-hit Rust Belt communities, prompted a 2017 column at The Daily Beast titled, “America’s Worst Subprime Lender: Jared Davis vs. Allan Jones?” (Jones is founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Check Into Cash.) In 2016 and 2017, consumer advocates mustered their forces again, and this time they weren’t allowing for loopholes. The Pew Charitable Trusts joined efforts with bipartisan lawmakers and Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform, a statewide coalition of faith, business, local government, and nonprofit organizations. Consumer advocates found a legislative champion in State Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Republican from Springfield.

It no doubt helped reform efforts that former Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger resigned in spring 2018 amid an FBI investigation into his cozy relationship with payday lenders. Rosenberger had taken frequent overseas trips—to destinations including France, Italy, Israel, and China—in the company of payday lending lobbyists. In April 2019, Ohio’s new lending law took effect and, since then, has been called a national model for payday lending reform that balances protections for borrowers, profits for lenders, and access to credit for the poor, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. New prices in Ohio are three to four times lower for payday loans than before the law. Borrowers now have up to three months to repay their loans with no more than 6 percent of their paycheck. Pew estimates that the cost of borrowing $400 for three months dropped from $450 to $109, saving Ohioans at least $75 million a year. And despite claims that the reforms would eliminate access to credit, lenders currently operate in communities across the state and online. “The bipartisan success shows that if you set fair rules and enforce them, lenders play by them and there’s widespread access to credit,” says Gabe Kravitz, a consumer finance officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Other states like Virginia, Kansas, and Michigan are following Ohio’s lead, Kravitz says. Some states, such as Nebraska, have even capped annual interest on payday loans. As a result, Pew researchers have seen a reduction in the number of storefront lending op­erations across the country. Even better, Kravitz says, there’s no evidence that borrowers are turning instead to online payday lending operations.

Cincinnati is one of five cities chosen for a grant to replicate the success of Boston Builds Credit, an ambitious effort that city launched in 2017 to provide credit counseling in poor and minority communities by training specialists at existing social service agencies. The program also encourages consumer partnerships with credit unions, banks, and insurance companies to offer small, manageable loans that can help the unbanked and underbanked improve their credit ratings. “Right now, local organizations are all kind of working in silos on the problem in Cincinnati,” says Todd Moore of the nonprofit credit counseling agency Trinity Debt Relief. Moore, who applied for the Boston grant, says he’s looking for an agency like United Way or Strive Cincinnati to lead the effort here.

Anthony Smith is thankful that he’s escaped the downward spiral of his payday loans, especially during the pandemic’s economic turmoil. “I’m blessed for every day I can get paid and have a job during these difficult times, just to be able to pay my bills and meet my responsibilities,” he says. “I’ve always kept a job, but until now I’ve had crappy credit. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy.”

Can others worth millions of dollars say the same?

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What’s Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?



Questionable’s definition means that something’s quality is up for debate. If a lender says that your credit score is questionable, it’s likely that they mean it’s poor, or at the very least, they’re hesitant to approve you for vehicle financing. Here’s what most lenders consider questionable credit, and what auto loan options you may have.

Questionable Credit and Auto Lenders

Many auto lenders may consider questionable credit as a borrower with a credit score below 660. The credit score tiers as sorted by Experian the national credit bureau, are:

  • Super prime: 850 to 781
  • Prime: 780 to 661
  • Nonprime: 660 to 601
  • Subprime: 600 to 501
  • Deep subprime: 500 to 300

The nonprime credit tiers and below is when you start to get into bad credit territory and may struggle to meet the credit score requirements of traditional auto lenders.

This is because lenders are looking at your creditworthiness – your perceived ability to repay loans based on the information in your credit reports. Besides your actual credit score, there may be situations where the items in your credit reports are what’s making a lender question whether you’re a good candidate for an auto loan. These can include:

  • A past or active bankruptcy
  • A past or recent vehicle repossession
  • Recent missed/late payments
  • High credit card balances
  • No credit history

There are ways to get into an auto loan with questionable credit. Your options can change depending on what’s making your credit history questionable, though.

Questionable Credit Auto Loans

If your credit score is less than stellar, it may be time to look at these two lending options:

  • What Is Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?Subprime financing – Done through special finance dealerships by third-party subprime lenders. These lenders can often assist with many unique credit situations, provided you can meet their requirements. A great option for new borrowers with thin files, situational bad credit, or consumers with older negative marks.
  • In-house financing – May not require a credit check, and is done through buy here pay here (BHPH) dealers. Typically, your income and down payment amount are the most important parts of eligibility. Auto loans without a credit check may not allow for credit repair and may come with a higher-than-average interest rate.

Both of these car loan options are typically available to borrowers with credit challenges. However, if you have more recent, serious delinquencies on your credit reports, a BHPH dealer may be for you. Most traditional and subprime lenders typically don’t approve financing for borrowers with a dismissed bankruptcy, a repossession less than a year old, or borrowers with multiple, recent missed/late payments.

Requirements of Bad Credit Car Loans

In many cases, your income and down payment size are the biggest factors in your overall eligibility for bad credit auto loans. Expect to need:

  • 30 days of recent computer-generated check stubs to prove you have around $1,500 to $2,500 of monthly gross income. Borrowers without W-2 income may need two to three years of professionally prepared tax returns.
  • A down payment of at least $1,000 or 10% of the vehicle’s selling price. BHPH dealers may require up to 20% of the car’s selling price.
  • Proof of residency in the form of a recent utility bill in your name.
  • Proof of a working phone (no prepaid phones), proven with a recent phone bill in your name.
  • A list of five to eight personal references with name, phone number, and address.
  • Valid driver’s license with the correct address, can’t be revoked, expired, or suspended.

Depending on your individual situation, you may need fewer or more items to apply for a bad credit auto loan. However, preparing these documents before you head to a dealership can speed up the process!

Ready to Get on the Road?

With questionable credit, finding a dealership that’s able to assist you with an auto loan is easier said than done. Here at Auto Credit Express, we want to get that done for you with our coast-to-coast network of special finance dealerships.

Complete our free auto loan request form and we’ll get right to work looking for a dealer in your local area that can assist with many tough credit situations.

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Bad Credit

Entrepreneur Tae Lee Finds Her Fortune



By Jasmine Shaw
For The Birmingham Times

Birmingham native Tae Lee had plans last year to visit the continent of Africa, the South American country of Columbia, and the U.S. state of Texas.

“I was going to stay in each place for like four to six weeks, and then COVID-19 happened,” she said. “So, I just was like, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna go to Mexico and stay for six months.’”

Once home from Playa Del Carmen, located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the 33-year-old entrepreneur put the final touches on “Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt,” a financial literacy card game for ages 10 and up.

“We created ‘Game of Fortune’ because we realized there was a gap in learning the fundamentals of money,” said Lee. “We go through life not knowing anything about money and then—‘Bam!’—real life hits. Credit, debt, and bills come at us quick!”

Lee believes the game “gives players a glimpse of real life” by using everyday scenarios to teach them how to make wiser financial decisions without having to waste their own money.

“I feel like [financial literacy] can be learned in ways other than somebody standing up and preaching it to you over and over again,” she said. “You can learn it in ways that are considered fun, as well.”

Which is why “we want the schools to buy it, so we can give students a fun way to learn about financial literacy,” she added.

Lee, also called the “Money Maximizer,” is an international best-selling financial author, speaker, coach, and trainer who is known for her financial literacy books, including “Never Go Broke (NGB): An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Money and Freedom” and the “NGB Money Success Planner High School Edition.” The Birmingham-based financial guru focuses on creating diverse streams of income in the tax, real estate, insurance, and finance industries.

For Lee, it’s about building generational wealth, not debt.

Indispensable Lessons

Lee got her first glance at entrepreneurial life as a child watching her mother, Valeria Robinson, run her commercial cleaning company, V’s Cleaning. Robinson retired in 2019.

“My grandmother had a cleaning service, too,” said Lee. “So, even though I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur, watching my mom and grandma do it taught me a lot.”

Lee grew up in Birmingham and attended Riley Elementary School, Midfield Middle School, and Huffman High School. She then went on to Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Alabama, where she earned bachelor’s degree in physical education. She struggled to find a career in her field and became overwhelmed by student loans.

“My credit and stuff didn’t get bad until after college,” she said. “I was going through school and taking money, but nobody told me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have to pay all of this back.’”

Before embarking on her extensive career in money management, Lee had not learned the indispensable lessons that she now shares with clients.

“‘Don’t have bad credit.’ That’s all I learned,” she remembers. “Financial literacy just wasn’t taught much. I learned the majority of my lessons as I aged.”

In an effort to ward off collection calls and raise her credit score, Lee researched tactics to strategically eliminate her debt.

“I knew I had to pay bills on time, and I couldn’t be late with payments,” she said.

Lee eventually began helping friends revamp their finances and opened NGB Inc. in 2017 to share fun, educational methods to help her clients build solid financial foundations.

“People were always coming to me like, ‘How do I invest in this?’ and ‘How do I do that?’ So, I said to myself, ‘You know what, people should be paying to pick your brain.’”

Legacy Building

While Lee enjoyed watching her clients reach milestones, like buying a new car with cash or making their first stock market investment, she was also designing “Game of Fortune” to teach the value of legacy building.

“The game gives players the knowledge to build generational wealth, not generational debt,” she said. “It gives you a glimpse of life, money, and what can truly happen if you mismanage your coins.”

Using index cards to create her first “Game of Fortune” sample deck, Lee filled each card with pertinent terms related to debt elimination and credit and wealth building. She then called on a few friends to help her work through the kinks.

Three of her good friends—Barbara Bratton, Daña Brown, and Sha Cannon—were just a few of the people that gave feedback on the sample deck.

“From there I met with Brandon Brooks, [owner of the Birmingham-based Brooks Realty Investments LLC], and four other financial advisors to fine-tune the definitions and game logistics,” Lee said.

Though Lee was unable to land a job in physical education after graduating from college, she now sees her career with NGB Inc. as life’s unexpected opportunity to teach on her own terms.

“Bartending and waitressing taught me that working for someone else was not for me,” she replied. “In order to get the life I always wanted, I had to create my own business.”

In her entrepreneurial pursuits, Lee strives to be an open-minded leader who embraces the need for flexibility.

“COVID-19 has shown me that in entrepreneurship you have to maneuver,” she said. “When life changes, sometimes your business will, too. You may have to change the path, but your ending goal can be the same.”

“Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt” is available and sold only on the “Game of Fortune” website: To learn more about Tae Lee and Never Go Broke Inc., visit and or email; you also can follow her on Facebook ( and Instagram (@nevergobrokeinc).

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