Having already forged the signatures of his father-in-law and a family friend to create payday loan businesses in Utah, federal prosecutors say, Adrian Rubin needed new partners.
The Jenkintown man turned first, prosecutors contend, to an American Indian tribe based in California, and paid it thousands of dollars to pretend it was the lender. Then, Rubin allegedly plotted with his two sons in a multimillion-dollar telemarketing scheme that defrauded 70,000 people.
He went to great lengths to hide his involvement, prosecutors say. That's because he had been convicted of tax evasion in 1997.
But for 14 years afterward, according to court documents unsealed Monday, Rubin and his coconspirators reaped tens of millions of dollars from payday lending.
Payday loans are short-term, high-interest loans for people with no credit and no ability to obtain traditional bank loans. They are typically repaid from the borrower's next paycheck.
Rubin, 58, has been charged with racketeering, conspiracy, and mail fraud. If convicted, he faces a possible sentence of 10 to 65 years in prison with a fine of up to $1 million.
His lawyer, Stephen Lacheen, declined to comment Monday.
Authorities believe Rubin owned, financed, and worked for multiple businesses that issued payday loans between 1998 and 2012. His bounty allegedly came from collection of fees that violated usury laws in Pennsylvania and other states.
At least three coconspirators worked with Rubin. They were not named and prosecutors have not charged them. One was identified only as the owner of numerous payday lending businesses based in Bala Cynwyd.
The loans came with finance charges between 10 percent and 30 percent of the amount borrowed. Those fees, in the short term, can translate to astronomical annual percentage rates that are outlawed in many states.
In late 2008, prosecutors say, Rubin introduced his sons to a new idea: selling worthless credit cards to people with bad credit.
Blake Rubin, 30, of Huntingdon Valley, and Chase Rubin, 28, of Rydal, were charged in 2014 along with Justin Diaczuk, 31, of Philadelphia, with selling those cards for $79.95 each. Their fraud, authorities said, totaled $7.5 million.
"I think this 'scam' is a good idea and I think it could work," Blake Rubin wrote in a 2009 e-mail to his father, according to court documents.
Both of his sons pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Adrian Rubin was sentenced in 1997 to a year and one month in federal prison for tax evasion. As the owner of Happy's Check Cashing Agency, he agreed to reimburse the IRS more than $4 million in back taxes.
The stealing, a weeping Rubin told a federal judge 18 years ago, started when he was a boy. He snatched a candy bar, put it in his pocket, and never paid for it.