tampabay.com

Agents raid loan business in Largo

By NICOLE HUTCHESON
Published May 24, 2007


LARGO - Federal agents raided a student loan servicing company here Wednesday, removing box after box of documents under the afternoon sun.

But it was unclear what was at the root of the investigation involving the company, Student Funding Services, 7995 114th Ave. The company is owned by Joseph A. Pursley of New Port Richey, according to state records.

On site Wednesday were agents with the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Education. Local FBI agents assisted in the effort, said Special Agent Dave Couvertier, spokesman for the federal agency in Tampa.

Neither agency would say why the company was under investigation.

A person who answered the phone at Pursley's last known address identified himself as the man's father, but said that Pursley, 51, was not available for comment.

Student Funding Services, a not-for-profit company, was established in 2004, according to state records, and has about 60 employees. The company serves as a middle man to student loan holders looking to consolidate their loans. Last year, the company did $4.6-million in sales, according to federal records.

Just after 4 p.m. Wednesday, a large U-Haul truck was pulled up to the rear of the building, where federal agents loaded boxes of documents from the office's garage area. A few former employees milled about outside.

Terri Still, 42, said she worked for Pursley for three years but said she was fired earlier this year after questioning some of Pursley's business practices.

"It's crazy. We all made sick, legitimate money, " said Still, who said she made more than $100, 000 last year working at the company.

She said she was paid commissions from the loans she consolidated.

"I don't know what clicked in his head, but his persona changed, " she said.

Times researcher Lea Iadarola contributed to this report. Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or 727 445-4162.