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An Open Letter to Brandon Frere

Columnist: Lawrence Amaturo
January, 2019 Issue

Lawrence Amaturo
All articles by columnist

Seriously?! While our editorial team is on the verge of compiling an entire issue dedicated to the generosity of the North Bay business community, you go and get yourself arrested by the FBI for alleged fraud? (This is pretty bad timing, man!)

As I write this, you’ve been held more than six days in federal custody, pending a detention hearing with the U.S. District Court of San Francisco. Ameritech, your so-called "loan debt relief services" company, is accused of deceiving individuals millions upon millions of dollars in charges and fees.

Believe me, I hope these federal accusations of wire fraud in connection with a years’ long scheme to steal from those encumbered by student loan debt are entirely false. But if true, you’ve destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans who fell prey to your cunning and avarice. We’re hoping it isn’t true that you’ve built an entire organization to bilk more than $28 million, and then parked roughly $9 million of this into personal accounts in Luxembourg and Andorra.

Now I’ve been to Luxembourg, Brandon, but it was by accident.  I was just another dumb kid out of college who had jumped off his train to Belgium a few stops too early. Aside from some nice churches and a few war monuments, it's mostly rows of banks, lined side-by-side, all operating on the “DL”, right? As for Andorra, that fairytale tax haven sandwiched between Spain and France?  Well, we all know its only "tourist attraction" is its hush-hush banks, correct?  C’mon, B, tell us we got this all wrong.

I understand more than 200 folks at your various businesses are counting on your innocence, not to mention those who’ve poured more than $60 million into your company coffers.  And you do have a bit to explain, my friend; the online reviews of your companies are littered with complaints as to how you’ve scammed consumers for years. Even your former employees make this accusation, citing your firm’s demands to upsell for the benefit of increasing revenue and commissions, rather than helping your customers. Please step up and clear the air for all us. These are serious criminal accusations!

The generosity of the North Bay

Brandon’s actions, if true, are clearly the exception in the North Bay. Both individuals and businesses here are exemplary in their actions to help the less fortunate. The January issue of NorthBay biz is dedicated to the ways this generosity is manifested throughout our three counties. I’m especially proud to reside among those so generous, and personally thank the companies that have underwritten the important work of more than 45 nonprofit organizations. 

Americans, indeed, are extraordinarily generous. Per capita, we voluntarily donate seven times more than continental Europeans. We give twice as much as our Canadian friends. Nearly 96 percent of all Americans give to charity, and 25 percent of Americans say they gave more this year than last, according to a report from This astonishing total exceeds $350 billion. Better still, it's not the likes of Bill Gates, or the Ford or Getty Foundations that make up the bulk of this giving, but rather everyday Americans throwing coins into Salvation Army kettles, contributing to their local churches, and addressing the needs of those subjected to fires, hurricanes and floods. Individual philanthropy accounts for 81 percent of this $350 billion!

Perhaps more inspiring is why we are so generous. According to The Philanthropy Roundtable, the nation’s largest network of donors, there are three major drivers of our generosity. First among them is our powerful religious belief. America is the most religious nation in the industrial world, and our compassion for others motivates giving more than any other reason. Second, our deeply-rooted tradition of mutual aid is second. This tradition was chronicled by France's Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1800s, and it lives on today. And finally, what the Philanthropy Roundtable refers to as our “potent entrepreneurial impulse” is a close third. This impulse—and how it has generated immense wealth for generations—has encouraged an ethic to help our less fortunate neighbors.

It is with these contrasts and observations in mind that I welcome you to our annual “Nonprofits” issue of NorthBay biz magazine. We’re a blessed region in an even more blessed country.



Happy New Year from all of us at NorthBay biz to you and to all you love. Stay in touch with me at!




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