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Rocky Boy lending business in confusing world of complaints

 

November 20, 2009



Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]

A new local business has embroiled the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation in a confusing world of complaints and investigations. The Better Business Bureau assigned the online payday loan company PDL Ventures which Neil Rosette, the executive administrative officer for the Chippewa Cree Tribe, said originally was named Rocky Boy Technologies and Rocky Boy Ventures 90 complaints filed in 13 months, with more complaints coming in during September and October. “This group doesn't only draw a lot of inquiries, but also a lot of complaints,” said Zan Deery of the Spokane Better Business Bureau, which covers eastern Washington, northern Idaho and Montana. “It is probably in our top three complaintgetters.” Rosette said after some investigation that he believes there has been a case of mistaken identity. Another online loan company was started in 2007 using the same name the Chippewa Cree Tribe selected this spring, Rosette said. “We think the (Better Business Bureau) fielded complaints from the other company and is attributing them to us,” he said. Rosette and other tribal officials have not provided information requested in several telephone calls since the last interview, although Rosette left a message with the Havre Daily News Nov. 5 in which he offered to provide information about Rocky Boy's economic development through a press release. That release had not been received by the Havre Daily this morning.

Sifting through the confusion Rosette and Dan Belcourt, a tribal attorney, originally said in a conference call with the Havre Daily News Oct. 22 that they were not aware of complaints filed against the Rocky Boy payday loan business. In another conference call the next day, the two said that after looking into it they had found that the Better Business Bureau had forwarded numerous complaints to PDL Ventures on Rocky Boy, but Tribal staff members had not been aware of the complaints. The bureau reports that some complaints were resolved by PDL Ventures, but 82 complaints remain unanswered. Rosette said new procedures were being implemented to make sure the staff members at PDL Ventures at Rocky Boy respond to complaints and also keep the Tribal officials informed. “We're not doing anything wrong,” Rosette said. “The more information and discussion we provide to people the better.” In the first conference call, Belcourt said the online business was started to promote economic development. “We look after the interests of the Tribe,” he said. At least one complaint appears to Be connected to the Tribal business. Michael Lee of Rochester, N.Y., said he had “a terrible experience” with Rocky Boy Technologies. According to a database search through Network Solut ions, the Rocky Boy Technologies Web site at www. Rbtloans.com was registered through GoDaddy.com to Rocky Boy Technologies LLC at a Box Elder address. Lee said he suddenly saw unexplained activity on his bank account statement someone had deposited money into his account without his permission, then debited payments back out. Even after receiving some repayment from Rocky Boy Technologies, Lee said, with bank fees and charges he still has lost money. “I am at a loss of $390 due to this company,” Lee said. In a letter faxed to the Havre Daily News after the second conference call on Oct. 23, Rosette wrote that the Rocky Boy company does “not provide payday loans to residents of Rocky Boy, Havre or in the state of Montana for that matter so we are very confused as to why you want to publish a story of this nature in the first place.” Rosette did not respond to messages asking why the Rocky Boy business did not provide loans to Montana residents.

Payday loans go online The concept of online payday loans raises questions about the payday loan business already under increasing scrutiny to a new level. Payday loans are short-term loans made against the borrower's payday, typically using a check written by the loan applicant to the lender at the time the loan is awarded as the only security. The loans often have annualized interest rates equating from 300 percent to more than 1,000 percent. Typically the cost is from $10 to $25 for every $100 borrowed. The repayment is due at the time of a the borrower's next payday, usually about seven, 14 or 30 days later. In a loan taken through a bank or on a credit card with 12 percent annual interest Independence Bank of Havre reported its rate on a 36-month unsecured loan Thursday at between 5.75 percent and 13 percent the interest in the first month would be $1 per $100. In the online version, people provide their checking account information to the business, often having a loan deposited within 24 hours. Consumers using the service agree to allow the business to withdraw the amount of the loan plus interest on their next payday. The Internet applications and electronic money transfers have led to some actions not expected by the people taking out the loans, they allege. People have filed complaints about actions from online payday loan businesses including debiting additional fees not clearly disclosed in the loan agreements, withdrawing more than the amount agreed upon and even depositing loans and withdrawing interest and fees when the bank account owner did not ask for or agree to a loan. The concerns about loans have risen to a new level with the Rocky Boy business. Judy Beck, spokeswoman for the Montana attorney general's office, said staff members of that office are investigating a complaint filed against PDL Ventures or an apparent affiliate. That investigation includes determining what jurisdiction the Montana attorney general has over a business operating on a sovereign Indian reservation, she said. Beck said the complaint alleges that the company debited more money out of the person's bank account than was agreed upon.

A morass of names, sites and complaints Deery said the Bet ter Business Bureau started receiving complaints connected to PDL Ventures in October 2008. Complaints started coming in to several regional Better Business Bureaus, with the number of complaints rapidly increasing starting in January. “We have victims filing complaints from all over the country,” she said. The Better Business Bureau asks that people try to resolve issues with companies it also deals with business-to-business complaints before filing complaint s wi th the bureau. However, it will accept complaints within certain parameters if a consumer has not first taken this step. The bureau will not accept complaints better handled by other private or government agencies or the legal system. The bureau attempts to resolve complaints and offers mediation or arbitration where necessary. Eventually, after receiving numerous complaints from around the country the complaints were connected to 12 Web sites and six different business names the bureau attributed the complaints to the Rocky Boy business. The bureau forwarded 90 complaints to Rocky Boy's PDL Ventures by September. Of those, the business responded to eight. In October, 12 complaints were closed without response. The bureau typically closes complaints within 30 days, listing them as resolved, unresolved or unanswered. In September, the bureau closed another 11 complaints against PDL Ventures, with nine not responded to, one resolved and one with the customer remaining unsatisfied. The Better Business Bureau reported Thursday that six more complaints have been closed this month, with two resolved and four unanswered. Rosette said that many of the complaints seem to be a matter of mistaken identity. Rocky Boy ran into some trouble when it picked the company's names, he said. The business originally went by the names Rocky Boy Technologies and Rocky Boy Ventures, but that led to people calling Rocky Boy Tribal departments, instead of calling the business and asking about their loans, Rosette said. “We found out that was the wrong name to use,” he said. In an effort to clear up that confusion, the Rocky Boy business committee approved using the name PDL Ventures an abbreviation of payday loans. The Tribe should have researched that name to make certain it was not already in use before selecting it, Rosette said. A supervisor at a payday loan call center with a number listed by the Better Business Bureau in association with the complaints made against PDL Ventures said several loan companies including his are using that name. He said he could not provide any information about his company or contact numbers for the company. When asked about information listed on a Web site for Rocky Boy Technologies with the URL www.rbtloans.com the only one of the sites associated in the complaints with its domain registered to a Box Elder address Rosette said the information was not accurate for the Chippewa Cree Tribe's business. The Web page, when viewed on Oct. 22, listed Rocky Boy Technologies as “A wholly owned subsidiary of PDL Ventures, LLC, a 100% Native American Limited Liability Company located on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.” Rosette said the Chippewa Cree Tribe's business is not connected with that reservation. The week following that conversation, the Rocky Boy Technologies page had been changed to read “located on Sovereign Indian Reservation.” Lynette Dupris, revenue director for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, said a business named Red River Ventures is licensed for operation on that reservation. It is not owned by or operated by the Tribe, she said. Red River Ventures is one of the names associated with the complaints eventually assigned to the Chippewa Cree Tribe, according to a Better Business Bureau report. The other sites listed in the report are registered to companies in Utah and Arizona, according to domain registration searches at the Network Solutions Web site. Rosette did not return calls asking for the Internet addresses of the sites used by Rocky Boy's business and whether the rbtloans.com site was the Tribe's.

Resolving the complaints Deery said her office wants to resolve the complaints. That is the function of the Better Business Bureau, she said. If the Chippewa Cree Tribe will provide information about its business the bureau would help sort out what complaints were filed against whom, she said. “It would behoove them to give us a call and fill out a business questionnaire,” Deery said. Belcourt said on Oct. 23 that Tribal officials and the PDL staff members would work to figure out exactly what complaints were made against the Rocky Boy business and deal with them. “We're sifting through this,” he said. As of this morning, the Spokane Better Business Bureau office had not received information about the Rocky Boy business or contacts about resolving the remaining complaints. Deery said the bureau had made several attempts to collect information about Rocky Boy's business to use in processing the complaints and to rate the business, which is not a Better Business Bureau accredited business. Registration as an accredited business is a voluntary process. Because of its complaint history and the fact the bureau does not have information about the Chippewa Cree Tribe's online payday loan business, the Better Business Bureau listed the business with a rating of F, on a scale of A+ to F, in its online report. Deery said she hopes the Tribe will provide the bureau with the information to help sort out the complaints. “We would love to be able to get this straightened out,” she said, adding, “We would love to work with them on this.”

Various names and Web sites

A Better Business Bureau report lists in-depth information about PDL Ventures, an online payday loan company, including its link to Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. Further information has been found indicating that some of the 119 complaints the bureau has received may be against other online loan companies than the Rocky Boy company using that name. The information provided by the bureau indicates the company in question does business through various subsidiaries or alternate names. The Better Business Bureau reports that PDL Ventures also does business as: PDL Technologies; Rocky Boy Technologies LLC; Rocky Boy Ventures; Impact Cash LLC; High Country Loans; and Red River Ventures LLC. The Web sites listed by the Better Business Bureau as part of the company's profile include: www.rbtloans.com; www.pdlloancenter.com; www.impactcashusa.com; https://norstarcash.com; https://outbackbucks.com; https://goodtimecash.com; https://togethercash.com; http://www.ezcashmedia. com; www.impactsolutiononline.com; www.biggest-cash.com; https://cityviewcash.com/; and https://togethercash.com. According to the Market Solutions Web site, the www.rbtloans.com site is the only one of the domains listed as registered to Rocky Boy, registered on May 24, 2009. The www.pdlloancenter.com domain was registered to Impact Payment Systems in Logan, Utah, on Oct. 8, 2008, and the other domains are registered to domains by Proxy Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Impact Solution Online site was registered in November 2007, the rest were registered in June 2008.

 

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