AmeriDebt Official Jailed in Internet Gambling Sting
By Marianne Lambert
The founder of a credit counselling firm in Maryland who secretly embezzled clients’ money in an Internet gambling company, has been sent to prison after defying a court order to create a fund of his assets from which his debtors could be repaid.

Andris Pukke was sentenced by Greenbelt District Judge, Peter J. Messitte, who told Pukke, 'It's likely you will see some rather quick compliance.'

Pukke’s firm offered credit counselling and debt reduction through reduced monthly payments but went on to charge hidden fees of $172m over seven years. In 2006 his assets were frozen, and a receiver was appointed to prevent Puke from keeping the money.

However, the restitution fund, with an agreed target of $35m, only climbed to $4m to repay 300,000 of Pukke’s previous customers.

It was discovered that friends, family and an Internet gambling company, as well as other shelters were used to hide the money Pukke owed to the restitution fund. In March Judge Messitte found Pukke in contempt of court but gave him extra time to produce the missing funds. When they failed to materialise, Pukke was sentenced and told by Judge Messitte that, 'This is no longer a game.'

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