The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are sending more than $9 million in refunds to consumers who lost money to Ameritech Financial, a student loan debt relief scheme operated by Brandon Frere, who was convicted of criminal charges in connection with the scheme.
The FTC is sending payments to 22,562 consumers. Most consumers will get a check in the mail. Recipients should cash their checks within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Eligible consumers who did not have an address on file will receive a PayPal payment. Consumers who have questions about their payment should contact the refund administrator, Rust Consulting, Inc., at 1-833-579-3126 or visit the FTC website to view frequently asked questions about the refund process. The Commission never requires people to pay money or provide account information to get a refund.
According to the FTC’s February 2018 complaint, Frere and his companies pretended to be affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education and charged up to $800 in illegal up-front fees. They also falsely told people that their $49-$99 monthly membership fees were going toward their student loan balance. In November 2020, the FTC announced that Frere and his companies were banned from providing debt relief services and prohibited from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
In December 2018, the Department of Justice brought criminal charges against Frere and his companies. Frere eventually pleaded guilty, and in July 2020, a U.S. district court judge sentenced Frere to 42 months in prison and ordered him to forfeit assets worth over $8.9 million. The refunds being sent today combine all the available funds from the FTC and DOJ settlements.
The Commission’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of refunds in FTC cases. In 2022, Commission actions led to more than $392 million in refunds to consumers across the country.
The refunds being sent today are the result of a settlement resolved before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the Commission lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court. Because of that ruling, the Commission no longer has its strongest tool to return money to consumers, and it will become harder to provide refunds to consumers harmed by deceptive and unfair conduct. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the Commission’s ability to get money back for consumers.
The FTC would like to thank Daniel Stiner and Elizabeth Nicols of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast California for their assistance with this matter.