SANTA FE, N.M. — In a federal class-action lawsuit, an Albuquerque law firm accuses a loan company with offices in New Mexico and Arizona of making predatory tax-refund-anticipation loans to people living in and around the Navajo Nation.
The lawsuit says the plaintiffs — William Dejolie and Sammia Dejolie of Gallup — were charged a 385 percent annual interest rate on a $1,250 loan they obtained in November 2014. The lawsuit, which calls the interest rate unconscionable, also accuses the defendants of violating the Truth in Lending Act, willful breach of contract and unjust enrichment, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/2u5GWqt ).
The company, which has offices in Gallup, Farmington, Shiprock and Chinle, Arizona, also operates grocery store, feed store, pawn shop and tax preparation businesses in the areas it serves.
The complaint says the three defendants in the case — T&R Market Inc., Tancorde Finance Inc. and T&R Tax Service Inc. — are all part of business venture that makes thousands of tax-refund-anticipation loans each year.
In 2017, the New Mexico Legislature passed a bill that eliminated payday loans. But an amendment exempted tax-refund-anticipation loans like the one the Dejolie’s obtained from T&R Market.
A phone message left by the Santa Fe New Mexican at T&R Market in Gallup was not immediately returned.
Other states have reported seeing a shift to tax-refund-anticipation loans after cracking down on payday loans.
Nicholas Mattison, the Albuquerque attorney representing the Dejolies, said the high interest rate loans are particularly egregious because they focus on clients who are eligible for the federal earned income tax credit, typically low-to moderate-income working individuals and couples with children.
“It’s supposed to be a source of support for the working poor. But instead it is being taken advantage of by the lenders out there,” he said.