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Business owner accused of defrauding customers

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Thursday, May 17, 2018 9:54 PM
April LaJune is accused by former employees and a customer of running a scam business, in which people give her money to access a secret cash account created by the government to help pay for bills and other personal expenses.
This screen capture is taken from April LaJune’s video show “America Matters.” LaJune is accused by former employees and a customer of running a fraudulent business practice that claims it can help people access a secret cash account created by the government to help pay for bills and other personal expenses.

A woman who has been operating a business from Ignacio is being accused by former employees of scamming people into a well-known fraud scheme that there is a secret government bank account people can use to pay off their bills and debt.

The allegations are tied to a 40-year-old scam that claims the U.S. Treasury creates a secret cash account in a person’s name at birth. Scammers contend that through the proper paperwork, people can use this money to pay debt, bills and other expenses.

In November, April LaJune started a business called “TDA (Treasury Direct Accounts) Account Information,” offering packages to help people access the alleged secret funds, which can be purchased for $450 on a website she created. LaJune runs the business from an office in Ignacio. It is unclear if she is a resident of La Plata County.

In an interview with The Durango Herald on Tuesday, LaJune denied the accusations. She said her business, while dealing with similar concepts, is different than those that defraud people of money.

“A lot of scammers are combative and lead people to think they can quit their job and not pay their bills,” LaJune said. “For us, it’s about using the ‘Accepted for Value’ process to push debts and credits across lines in commerce like people do every day.”

“Redemption,” “Strawman” or “Acceptance for Value” are common names for the scam, according to an FBI warning about the scheme on the agency’s website.

Scammers trying to profit off this unfounded theory often charge fees for “kits,” the FBI says, to teach people how to navigate the supposedly complex process to access these secret funds.

“This scheme frequently intermingles legal and pseudo-legal terminology in order to appear lawful,” the FBI warns.

FBI officials declined to comment for this story. A spokeswoman with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office did not call back after being contacted for information about this incident.

Two employees told the Herald that LaJune would sometimes make between $20,000 to $30,000 a month by selling the kits.

Thomas Graham, who currently lives in Tennessee, began working for LaJune in January. He quit last month after catching onto the scheme. He said LaJune has been able to convince people of the scheme through her online show, “America Matters,” which according to her website is “commentary on current events happening in the world today.” LaJune calls herself a “conservative political journalist.” Her YouTube channel has more than 63,000 followers. The show is also available on Roku, another streaming service.

LaJune did not answer questions via email Wednesday about how many packages she has sold.

“What she’s selling people appears to be very believable documents,” Graham said. “And they believe what she’s saying. But it’s all lies. She’s scamming people out of tons of money.”

Jennifer Houston, who lives in La Plata County, quit working for LaJune on April 23 after working for months as the executive assistant responsible for assembling the form packages. She said LaJune’s ability to foster a deep distrust of the government has led to her success in the scam.

“Everything she is talking about is being debunked time and time again with truth,” Houston said.

The FBI explicitly warns people not to believe this scheme and asks people to report would-be scammers.

“Do not believe that the U.S. Treasury controls bank accounts for all citizens,” the FBI says. “This scheme predominately uses fraudulent financial documents that appear to be legitimate ... (and) other official documents are used outside their intended purpose.”

ScamBusters, a website that provides information on common scams, said there has “never been a single verifiable case of anybody identifying the existence of a secret Treasury account in their name, let alone getting their hands on any of this mythical money to pay taxes or any other bill.”

But LaJune said she has successfully accessed this account on two occasions: once to pay for a medical bill and another time to get credit on an electricity bill. She declined to provide documented proof.

LaJune also did not provide any evidence that her clients were successful in the process. She said that is because her business started in November, and it can take a long time to successfully fill out the forms. She also said the process is delayed when people don’t fill out the forms properly.

That explanation is typical, according to the FBI.

“They (scammers) will often imply that others have had great success in discharging debt and purchasing merchandise such as cars and homes,” the FBI warns. “Failures to implement the scheme successfully are attributed to individuals not following instructions in a specific order or not filing paperwork at correct times.”

But LaJune on Tuesday said there’s a stark distinction between what her company does and what fraudsters attempt.

“It has to be true, because I’ve seen over and over again Accepted for Value work,” LaJune said. “But I’ve also seen over and over again people who don’t know how to do it, and if you don’t do the process correctly, you could be in jail.”

Patti Hacht, a 65-year-old from Michigan who bought the package, said she was lured into the secret bank account idea from LaJune’s show. She said she’s lost about $500 from the process.

“I thought I was being as careful as I could be, but it just kills me I got taken,” she said. “I’m embarrassed to admit (LaJune) suckered me. It’s horrifying to me.”

Hacht, who has reported LaJune to the FBI and Colorado Attorney General, hoped to pay off her daughters’ student loans with the money in the secret account.

“I’m mad about the money, but I had so hoped I could say to my kids, guess what, I’m going to change your life,” Hacht said. “And now I’m crushed I can’t do that.”

<PARAGRAPH style="Shirttail">jromeo@durangoherald.com

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