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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Agents raid business suspected in Ponzi scheme

Washington state troopers and agents with the Internal Revenue Service raided the Spokane offices today of Team Spirit America, which has been fined by state regulators for operating what clients have alleged in court is a Ponzi scheme.

The troopers and IRS agents, identified with their uniforms as being part of the Criminal Investigative Division, seized a Mercedes car outside the office, at 1801 W. Broadway Ave.

None of the persons involved in the raid was immediately available for comment.

But just last month, the Washington Department of Financial Institutions announced that it was seeking a $150,000 fine from Colbert resident Doris Nelson, who is manager of Little Loan Shoppe and several other related entities. Nelson manages Team Spirit America, which has taken over affairs for Little Loan Shoppe, according to newspaper archives.

In a statement of charges filed in January, state regulators alleged that Nelson told investors they could earn as much as 60 percent on money Little Loan Shoppe or affiliates used to make payday loans.

More than 300 investors bought notes worth $29 million in U.S. currency and another $26 million Canadian. At least 35 Washington residents invested more than $6 million.

Nelson told investors the high returns were possible because short-term, high-fee payday loans allowed Little Loan Shoppe to turn their money over several times before it was returned to them. But no payments were made after March 2009.

The company filed bankruptcy in July under the name LLS America LLC. In documents filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, investors claim Nelson operated the companies as a Ponzi scheme that paid early investors with money from newcomers.

Thomas Clouse
Thomas Clouse joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He worked as an investigative reporter for the City Desk and covering federal, state and local courts for many years and is currently the assistant editor for the Business section.

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