By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal jury in Manhattan on Wednesday found a Kansas City, Missouri businessman guilty of fraud for running a $220 million payday lending scheme that charged illegally high interest rates and made loans to consumers who did not authorize them.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Richard Moseley, 73, was convicted on six counts including wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, after a 2-1/2-week trial.
Moseley, who had pleaded not guilty, faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charges at his scheduled April 27, 2018 sentencing.
"We are disappointed with the verdict and plan a vigorous appeal," Moseley's lawyer Adam Perlmutter said in an email. "The law in the area was completely unsettled at the time alleged in the indictment. We believe the U.S. Attorney's office pursued [a] prosecution in a manner that fundamentally violated Mr. Moseley's right to due process."
U.S. authorities have for several years been cracking down on what they consider abusive payday lending practices.
Payday lenders offer short-term loans that can tide over borrowers until their next paychecks.
Critics say the loans often carry high costs and can trap borrowers in an endless cycle of debt.
Prosecutors said that from 2004 to September 2014, Moseley's businesses made "predatory" loans to more than 620,000 Americans, often downplaying the financing costs and charging effective annual interest rates that could top 700 percent.
The defendant spent some of the millions of dollars he made from the scheme on a Mexico vacation home, luxury cars and country club dues, prosecutors said.
"Moseley made it nearly impossible for those already struggling to make ends meet," and after being convicted "can no longer take advantage of those already on the brink," Joon Kim, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
Moseley was charged in February 2016 as part of the federal crackdown. Scott Tucker, a race car driver charged at the same time over payday lending, was convicted last month by another Manhattan federal jury on all 14 counts he faced.
The case is U.S. v. Moseley, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00079.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)