GREENBELT, Md. (AP) – The founder of the credit counseling firm AmeriDebt on Monday agreed to pay $35 million to settle suits filed by regulators and former customers over $172 million in allegedly hidden fees the company collected from financially strapped debtors.

The money that Andris Pukke pays would go to a fund that will be used to reimburse the roughly 300,000 customers the Federal Trade Commission claimed AmeriDebt Inc. deceived.

Pukke, who made a fortune off businesses that catered to customers in debt, is also barred from working in credit counseling, debt management or telemarketing as part of the settlement.

The agreement came a day before a federal court in Greenbelt was set to hear the FTC’s lawsuit against Pukke (PUCK’-ee) and a class action lawsuit filed against him by former AmeriDebt customers. The payment covers both suits, according to the FTC.

The agreement is subject to approval by the federal judge as well as by the court hearing Pukke’s personal bankruptcy filing.

Pukke must contribute almost all his personal assets, including two mansions, to come up with the $35 million, according to the FTC. A court appointed receiver is searching for Pukke’s assets to pay the fund. As of June, the receiver had located about $16 million, according to Lucy Morris, the lead FTC attorney on the case.

Pukke does not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement and his attorney said Pukke still vigorously denies the FTC charges.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.