(NEXSTAR) – More than $9 million in payments are going out to the thousands of people who lost money to a student loan debt relief scheme, federal officials announced Tuesday.
Brandon Frere, the owner of Ameritech Financial, Financial Education Benefits Center and American Financial Benefits Center, was caught at San Francisco International Airport while trying to flee the country and was charged in December 2018. He was convicted in July 2020 and sentenced to 42 months in prison.
The Northern California resident admitted in court that he and his companies, which duped people into thinking they were working with the U.S. Department of Education, collected at least $25,000,000 from the debt relief scheme.
Employees working for the companies conned people out of illegal up-front fees as high as $800, according to the FTC, and signed them up for $49-99 monthly fees that were supposedly going to pay off student debt, but were actually going straight to Frere’s companies.
How will the payments work?
On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) started sending out payments to 22,562 people.
Most will receive a check in the mail, which the FTC says should be cashed within 90 days.
Eligible consumers who didn’t have an address on file will get a PayPal payment instead.
“In these cases, we send an email from the FTC (firstname.lastname@example.org) to payment recipients prior to payment,” the FTC says on its website. “Once payments have been issued, PayPal sends an email telling recipients about their refund.”
Anyone who receives a PayPal payment should accept it within 30 days.
Most FTC refund cases don’t require recipients to file a claim to get their money.
“FTC court orders typically require the defendants to provide a list of customers, along with their contact information, and how much they paid,” according to the FTC. “We use this information to send refunds. If we do not have all the information we need to send refunds, we may request that consumers file a claim. If so, information about how to file a claim will be available at www.ftc.gov/refunds.”
If you think you might be eligible or have other questions about the refund process, you can call the administrator, Rust Consulting, Inc. at (833) 579-3126. See the FTC website for answers to common questions about refunds.
The FTC also urges recipients to be wary of possible scams and to remember that the Commission will never ask people to pay money or reveal account information in order to receive a refund.