Consumer alleges Big Picture Loans charges rate greater than allowed under Massachusetts state law

By Jenie Mallari-Torres | Nov 12, 2018

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) – A Massachusetts consumer alleges an online payday lender unlawfully charges more than 500 percent interest and claims it is exempt from usury laws because it is wholly owned by a Native American tribe.

Dana Duggan filed a complaint individually and on behalf of persons similarly situated on Oct. 31 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Big Picture Loans LLC; Matt Martorello; and Ascension Technologies LLC, formerly known as Bellicose Capital LLC alleging violations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and other counts.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff applied for two loans online with the defendant in 2017 and 2018. She alleges that the representatives she spoke to both times failed to disclose the interest rate on the loans would be more than 500 percent, and that this rate is greater than the maximum legal rate of interest under state law.

The plaintiff alleges the defendants use a "rent-a-tribe" model with the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to set up a lending entity under the name of Big Picture Loans LLC, which is actually being funded, controlled, and handled by his own company, Bellicose Capital LLC. 

The plaintiffs holds Big Picture Loans LLC, Martorello and Ascension Technologies LLC responsible because the defendants allegedly associated with a Native American tribe in an attempt to cloak itself in the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the tribe.

The plaintiffs request a trial by jury and seek judgment against defendants; certify class action; declaratory and injunctive relief; actual, statutory, treble and punitive damages; attorney’s fees and costs of suit; and further relief as the court deems proper. She is represented by John Roddy and Elizabeth Ryan of Bailey & Glasser LLP in Boston, Massachusetts; Jonathan R. Marshall of Bailey & Glasser LLP in Charleston, West Virginia; and Michael A. Caddell, Cynthia B. Chapman, John B. Scofield Jr. and Amy E. Tabor of Caddell & Chapman in Houston, Texas.

U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts case number 1:18-cv-12277

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