By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Imagine signing a purchase contract for a new RV. You agree to 20 years of payments, but five years down the road, you find out at the end of ten years, you don’t have 10 more years of payments. Rather, there’s a whopping “balloon payment” for the rest of the note – to be paid on one month. According to authorities in Utah, that’s happened to DOZENS of customers of Utah’s General RV. Four slick employees fraudulently cooked paperwork – but no charges will be filed. Outrageous? Read on.
We reported on this story when it broke in mid-May. The unfortunate customer who broke the news was Lisa Pueblo, a Farmington, Utah, resident. Lisa signed the papers for a new motorhome in 2015. It wasn’t until 2021 she found out that her 240-payment contract held by the bank was actually a 119-month contract. After that, a final red-hot payment of $63,000 to be made after the first, swallowable 119 payments. How did it happen?
A closer look at the carbon copies of the loan papers from General RV showed information of the number of payments to be made. That box showed a faint “240” – twenty years’ worth. But over the faint 240 was a much darker “119” plus a single balloon payment. Lisa was aghast. She let a major area TV station know of the problem, and they broadcast the information to their listeners in May. Apparently other General RV customers saw the broadcast and, very quickly, three more RV buyers stepped forward with so-called “smudged” paperwork. Each one was on the hook for a much-unexpected balloon payment.
The DMV investigates
The state agency in charge of investigating alleged fraud by RV dealerships is Utah’s DMV. When the story broke out, RVtravel.com contacted Allan Shinney of the DMV – the man in charge of such investigations. While Shinney was initially forthcoming, his office suddenly went mum. Nothing further came from the DMV until just this month – and it’s not good news. The DMV has investigated and say four General RV employees cooked the paperwork, but they won’t be charged.
Interestingly, none of the four “paper cookers” works for General RV anymore. Nor would the DMV release the names of those they suspect were responsible for what we deemed “perverted paperwork.” So why are these frauds free to go? Blame it on Utah’s statute of limitations. Under state law, charges against crimes of this nature must be filed within four years. The four bad actors worked in General RV’s Draper, Utah, dealership from 2014 to 2017. None of the crooked paperwork falls within the four-year statute of limitations, and prosecutors simply can’t pursue the mechanics of this shyster-swindle. No charges can be filed.
What help for victims?
Where does this leave the victims of this sleazy scam? Stepping up to the plate, credit unions across the Beehive State, when they heard of the matter, started an audit of all loans connected to General RV. They found dozens of cases of “discrepancies” and reported them to the DMV. Then, to their credit, they worked with members who got stuck with unexpected balloon payments to work out suitable refinancing.
For Lisa Pueblo, the refinancing efforts may have been a relief. But for the General RV employees who created the mess in the first place to have no charges filed against them? “They should go to prison,” she told the local FOX affiliate that first broke the story. “I mean everything about it was wrong! … I just think it’s so deceitful for these salesman to do this. It would be amazing if their names came out, and buyer beware!”
Utah DMV’s Shinney says that the one who he thinks “masterminded” the crooked affair is now completely out of Utah. As we said, none of the four work for General RV anymore. But interestingly enough, some of the scammers work in – guess what? – the finance industry. Buyer beware, indeed!
So how can you protect yourself against a scam like this one? Before you sign on the dotted line on a loan contract – or any other legal paperwork – make yourself unbearable to the finance manager. Take the time to scrutinize ANY and ALL paperwork you’re asked to sign. Don’t accept the standard malarkey of, “This is just customary paperwork, sign here.”
Does the paperwork have “carbon copies”? Be sure to examine the data entered on each copy to make sure it all matches up. If something doesn’t “feel right,” then STOP, take copies of the paperwork with you, and get someone (potentially an attorney) to help you go over them, before you return to sign them. If the dealer won’t let you take the papers away, don’t walk away – RUN away.
Check any current loan papers – just in case
While this scam appears to be limited to General RV, it may not be a bad idea to take out any active loan papers you have and give them a good look-see. Federal law requires that any loan contracts have a clear, fact-containing box up at the top. The numbers in the boxes disclose the number of payments, the amount of each payment, and the finance charges. Then the last one, the total of all payments. Take out your calculator and do the math. The numbers should all add up.
Utah’s DMV says that General RV cooperated with their investigation. That may well be, but it could take a while for the company to re-earn the trust of the buying public, while four of their former employees walked away from crooked dealing, all with no charges.
Ever felt like you’ve been victimized by an RV dealer? We’d like to hear about it. Please fill out the form below and enter “Potential Fraud” in the subject line.