Camper Bought On Craiglist Was Stolen

For many Americans and Canadians buying items advertized on Craiglist and other classified sites has become a great way to locate deals.

avoid-scamsUnfortunately, those sites are also a hotbed of con artists looking to make a quick buck.

In earlier posts I reported about an auto insurance scam on Kijiji and Craiglist and on an Air Force veteran was scammed when purchasing a motorhome off Craiglist.

An Oklahoma family’s time with their dream camper was recently cut short when they learned the RV they bought online on Craiglist was actually stolen.

They learned it belonged to another family through social media.

It’s not easy for 4-year-old Easton to let go of the camper his dad just brought home, but he’ll soon have to.

“[It is] crushing because we had been looking for a long time,” Bret Thomas told Tulsa, Oklahoma News on 6.

“The boys were all excited you know when we got home. We just played in it.”

For over a year, the family searched online for a good camper in their price range. That’s when Thomas spotted a Craiglist ad for a used Pop-up camper for $500. Thomas jumped on the deal and met with the seller.

scam-alertThe camper didn’t have a title, but Thomas got a handwritten bill of sale.

Thomas says the seller told him he had taken the camper with his wife to Lake Thunderbird all the time and that he was out of work and that he just needed the money. Thomas paid him in cash, and the 1977 Jayco camper was all his.

“This was going to be our little home base,” Thomas told News on 6.

“Most of them you find in this price range, their canvases are just ripped up and shredded.”

It was going to be a great way to spend family weekend trips at Lake Arcadia. Excited, Thomas posted pictures of his new purchase online, but it wasn’t long before friends notified him that his new buy actually belonged to someone else.

“It ended up being a friend of a friend’s trailer that was stolen that morning,” he said.

Even more bizarre, Thomas’ wife went to high school with the owner of the camper and he’s even been to the family’s home to fix their AC unit.

“He was a really nice guy. I remember him from that time, and so we contacted him [and we] were able to easily to deal with him, and he was obviously happy to get his property back,” Thomas said.

The owner was able to identify a broken handle wrapped in electrical tape and Christmas lights stored inside a cabinet. It was a heartbreaking hang-up for the Thomas family, who will once again have to put their camping plans on the back burner.

scam-acronym“Legally, the trailer would be ours I guess, is what they were saying. But I know that he used it for his family and their memories and I couldn’t take something like that from someone,” Thomas said.

A missing camper report was filed with Edmond Police and Thomas filed reports with Yukon Police and Oklahoma City Police where the payment occurred.

Thomas says he is not sure if the seller actually stole the camper or was just in possession of it. He has tried calling the seller and contacting him on Facebook and says he would not press charges if he got his money back.

Worth Pondering…
Where there are sales, there are scam artists.

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3 Charged in RV Trafficking Ring

In recent posts I’ve reported on a variety of Internet scams involving recreation vehicles sales.

One of the stolen travel trailers recovered by police
One of the stolen travel trailers recovered by police. (Photo Credit: RCMP)

In today’s post a lengthy Edmonton (Alberta) Police Service investigation into a travel trailer theft ring has led to 95 charges against three men, including a notorious Edmonton con man who masterminded one of the largest Internet-based frauds in history.

The three—Kelly Yates, 50, Alyn Waage, 67, and Donald White, 56—are facing 95 charges following the recovery of nearly $1 million worth of stolen high-end travel trailers and recreational equipment involved in a large fraudulent registration scheme.

The charges include trafficking in stolen property, possession of stolen property, and tampering with VIN.

It all began in October 2013 when Edmonton city police began investigating a stolen property file that lead to executing a search warrant at a home on the city’s south side. There, police recovered a stolen Ford F-350 truck, a custom Weld Viper 2 jet boat, a Gateway boat trailer, and other stolen equipment totaling $198,300.

Information gathered from the search sparked the auto theft unit to begin a complex investigation with the RCMP, Saskatoon police, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which uncovered a suspected fraudulent registration scheme involving stolen recreational vehicles that extended across Western Canada.

One of the stolen travel trailers recovered by police
One of the stolen travel trailers recovered by police. (Photo Credit: RCMP)

From that investigation, $664,830 worth of stolen property was recovered, including 11 travel trailers, three enclosed trailers, two fifth wheels, one utility trailer, two boat trailers, and one jet boat, ranging in value from $2,500 to $59,000. So far 18 of the 19 trailers have been recovered.

The thefts occurred from a wide range of locations like residential driveways, parking lots, and storage lots in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, predominantly outside of Edmonton.

In most cases, the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) were removed and replaced with a fraudulent number, then registered through Service Alberta using counterfeit bills of sale before they were sold through online classified ads.

Det. Alfred Normand with the auto theft unit said about 12 of the 18 stolen trailers had changed hands, half of which went to innocent third party purchasers. The other half went to associates within the group.

The vehicles were sold under false vehicle identification numbers and counterfeit bills of sale through online services such as Kijiji. Vehicles were bought at “close to market value,” police Det. Alfred Normand said. Over the course of the investigation, police say they recovered equipment, including travel trailers, fifth-wheels and utility trailers, that total $863,130 in value.

Eighteen of the trailers were returned to their owners, and one is still missing, he said.

Buyers of the fraudulent equipment have lost their money. Those people can seek restitution through the criminal or civil court system.

Other stolen vehicles may still be on the market.

Waage, a former real estate agent, fled Canada in 1998 after he was charged with 44 counts of mortgage fraud totaling $1.2 million in relation to the sale of 22 condominiums at two Edmonton developments, and another small fraud in Hinton (Alberta).

Authorities have said Waage used the money to finance his next con, a complex pyramid scheme that raked in more than $60 million US from as many as 15,000 investors from 57 countries. At the time, it was believed to be one of the largest frauds yet conducted over the Internet.

One of the stolen travel trailers recovered by police
One of the stolen travel trailers recovered by police. (Photo Credit: RCMP)

Waage created and ran the Tri-West Investment Club between 1999 and 2001, initially operating from a cliffside mansion in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He admitted to having used the money from the scheme to buy Mexican real estate, fleets of vehicles, a helicopter, and a yacht.

The scheme involved a high-tech version of the classic Ponzi scheme, in which early investors are paid off with money from later investors, not from return on investments. Waage was arrested in Puerto Vallarta in 2001 and was sentenced in 2005 in California to 10 years in prison after he admitted he planned and conducted the scheme.

Other Canadians and Americans were also indicted for their roles, including Waage’s son. Brenda Martin, a Canadian woman employed by Waage at his estate in Mexico, gained international attention after she was held by Mexican authorities for two years for knowingly accepting money from the fraud run by her former boss.

Normand said to always ask for identification from the seller of a vehicle to avoid being defrauded and to check the VIN — usually on a label inside driver or passenger door — to make sure it hasn’t been scratched out and that it matches the public VIN.

Worth Pondering…
Where there are sales, there are scam artists.

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RV Dealer Sentenced in RV Lease-Ownership Scam

Another day and another RV scam to report.

scamIn a recent post, I reported on an Internet scam that targets would-be RV buyers.

In today’s post the owner/operator of an RV dealership was sentenced to a jail term for defraud in an elaborate RV lease-ownership scam.

A Court of Queen’s Bench Justice sentenced Arnold Donszelmann to seven years in prison for defrauding 36 Albertans in a scam dating back a number of years.

Donszelmann, who used to own and operate Leisure RV in Millet, Alberta, sold dozens of RVs to people as part of an elaborate scheme, according to an Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) news release.

Many customers entered his so-called management program where he promised to lease the owners’ RVs out for them and pay the owners part of the proceeds as an investment of sorts.

The problem was, Donszelmann did not have clear ownership of the RVs meaning he did not have the right to sell them. However, many purchasers got the payments they expected so the scam carried on for years without them realizing they were actually victims, not owners.

Eventually the payments were late or infrequent. Many of the owners got tired of hearing excuses as to why they could not see or access their RVs. Suspicions grew, AMVIC was alerted and launched an investigation and canceled Donszelmann’s business license in 2007.

scam-acronym“AMVIC shut him down, we put an end to this scam,” John Bachinski, executive director of Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council said.

AMVIC also charged Donszelmann with fraud in 2012.

On April 26th of this year, an 11-person jury convicted Donszelmann of 31 counts of fraud over $5,000 under Section 380(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.

“Our investigators worked long and hard to bring Donszelmann to justice,” Bachinski said.

In addition to seven years in prison, Donszelmann has been ordered to pay more than $2.3 million in restitution to the victims.

“He has hurt a lot people who have lost significant amounts of money. I hope the victims will be able to recoup at least some of their financial losses,” Bachinski said.

“AMVIC, as the Regulator for the RV industry, works to protect Albertans. I can assure you we will continue to put a stop to any other scammer who tries to set-up shop here.”

Worth Pondering…
Where there are sales, there are scam artists.

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Internet Scam Targets RV Buyers

The old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, you can be sure it is,” unfortunately, is apparently ringing true again in the case of the scam website www.rv-wheels.com.

Scam-AlertPolice say the scam artists are thought to be operating out of Nigeria, and even though some would-be RV buyers lost thousands of dollars in deposit money on non-existent RVs, there is little that can be done because the alleged perpetrators are outside of the reach of U.S. law enforcement agencies, according to investigators with the Newton County (Missouri) Police Department.

Officers from the southwest Missouri county became involved because www.rv-wheels.com directed hopeful RV buyers to the site of a former RV park south of Joplin, Missouri, according to Detective Fred Engberg. The campground went out of business years ago although some “old FEMA trailers” are rented to occupants on the property, Engberg told Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).

Longtime RVDA member dealer Wheelen RV Center in Joplin has been fielding questions from consumers and notified RVDA about the scam. Marty Wheelen said people from as far away as Georgia traveled to Joplin to pick-up the motorhome they intended to buy from the operators of the website, only to find the motorhome was not there..

Similar off-shore scams have directed prospective RV buyers to other locations around the country to pick-up RVs that did not exist, Engberg added.

avoid-scamsRVDA called the phone number listed on the www.rv-wheels.com website but there was no answer. However, a few minutes later, the call was returned and the person who called back said it would be possible to view the motorhome RVDA inquired about either in Joplin or at another location specified by the potential buyer.

“Please call (before traveling to Joplin) because other people are interested in that unit and it might be sold before you come out,” the caller added.

Although there’s virtually no chance the people who lost deposit money will be able to recover, Engberg, the Missouri police officer, said putting the word out about the internet scam is a good idea to prevent others from being victimized.

Worth Pondering…
Where there are sales, there are scam artists.

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Protect Yourself From PayPal Email Scams

In earlier posts I reported about an auto insurance scam on Kijiji and Craiglist and on an Air Force veteran was scammed when purchasing a motorhome off Craiglist. rv

PayPal is considered one of the most trusted internet sites for buying or selling items but some con artists are finding a new way to exploit it.

Since John Yonce rarely used his 2011 29-foot, one-bedroom Coachman Catalina trailer any more, he decided to advertise it for sale.

“I got a few bites but nobody is pulling the cork on it. They are just nibbling at it,” Yonce told WRDW-TV News 12.

Then he received what he thought was his first real offer. The buyer claimed to be stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California and agreed to his asking price of $20,000 and then some.

“He wanted to pay me what I asked for it plus $950 shipping,” says Yonce.

“And $380 in PayPal transaction fees.scam

He said that he would send the money by PayPal using his credit card,” says Yonce.

But first, “he wanted me to wire him $950 to somebody in San Diego through Western Union.”

That’s when Yonce’s instincts warned him that something was very wrong and that he was about to get scammed. A phone call to PayPal confirmed that it was a scam.

The email looked like it was from PayPal but a closer inspection revealed some warning signs:

  • PayPal will always address you in an email by using your first and last name, not your email address
  • PayPal emails do not contain poor grammar or mention the FBI to gain your confidence that a transaction is safe

Be skeptical if someone wants to make an immediate purchase at the asking price with no questions asked. Also any requests for overnight shipping and be wary of PayPal notices sent to your email.

PayPal offers the following advice on how to handle “phishing” attempts to steal your personal information.

Avoid email scams and spot fake emails claiming to be from PayPal.

Fake PayPal emails – phishing

You may receive a fake email that claims to be from PayPal. Sending fake emails is called “phishing” because the sender is “fishing” for your personal information.

The email may ask you to: Visit a fake or “spoof” website and enter personal information. Call a fake Customer Service number. Click an attachment that installs malicious software on your computer.

How to protect yourself from fake emails avoid-scams

When you aren’t sure if you can trust an email claiming to be from PayPal, here are two guidelines that can help you to spot the real from the fake: PayPal emails will always use your first and last name, or your business’s name PayPal emails will never ask for your personal or account information such as credit or debit card numbers, bank account details, driver’s license number, email addresses, or passwords

If you suspect an email is fake, don’t open it. Don’t reply to the email, click any links, or download any attachments.

How do I report PayPal fraud or a PayPal Scam?

Forward any suspicious emails to spoof@paypal.com. Then, delete the suspect email.

Worth Pondering…

Travel safely…and stay away from road-gaiters and orange barrels.

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Beware of Buying insurance off Kijiji or Craigslist

In an earlier post I reported that an Air Force veteran was scammed when purchasing a motorhome off Craiglist.

fraudAviva Canada, one of the country’s leading providers of home, auto, recreational vehicle, group, and business insurance, is warning Canadians about the risks of insurance deals that seem too good to be true.

In cooperation with the Toronto Police Service, Aviva Canada released details of a recent insurance scam that has left individuals without auto insurance coverage and cost them hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of dollars, according to an Aviva Canada news release.

“With the anonymity and ease of classified websites, we have seen a sharp increase in the amount of fake motor vehicle liability insurance cards, also known as pink slips, being sold online,” said James Russell, Chief Underwriting Officer for Aviva Canada.

“Consumers need to be aware that some individuals have made a business out of defrauding others and use this type of scam as a regular source of income.”

Serafattin (George) Solak has been charged with:

  • One count of Fraud over $5,000
  • 13 counts of Fraud under $5,000
  • Eight counts of Uttering a Forged Document
  • Four counts of Misleading Receipts
  • Eight provincial charges of Sell, Give, Distribute Insurance Card

On September 10, 2013, Toronto Police Service officers arrested Solak outside of his Edmonton home.

The arrest was possible after Aviva Canada worked with the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Crown Attorney’s office to uncover sufficient evidence for a Canada-wide warrant. fraudPrevention

He was returned to Toronto on September 11, 2013, and was taken directly to 31 Division. He is currently in custody awaiting a court appearance in a Toronto courtroom. During the arrest, police officers seized fraudulent Aviva Canada motor vehicle insurance liability cards.

“We want to emphasize that the charges against Mr. Solak are just one instance. Other would-be criminals are trying this over and over again,” continued Russell.

“What people are buying from these individuals is not insurance—it’s just a piece of paper that comes with a big risk. Any driver using a fake insurance slip instead of securing valid coverage could potentially be sued for millions of dollars.”

The charges were laid by Toronto Police Service after Aviva Canada provided evidence of fraudulent activity. It is alleged the Solak advertised insurance for sale on various online classified websites including Kijiji and Craigslist. It is also alleged that he met with a number of potential victims in person, accepted cash or checks and provided false motor vehicle liability insurance cards.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario has also issued a public warning about Solak and his connection to a fake insurance scam.

What happens to those who are caught with false insurance? Having false insurance means a driver has no insurance at all, which is illegal. If it is discovered that a driver has a false insurance card, they could be charged with a criminal offense, possibly leading to first-time penalties of:

  • A minimum $5,000 fine, up to a maximum of $25,000
  • Vehicle seizure for up to three months, with the owner responsible for all storage costs
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to one year
  • For a second conviction the minimum fines double, and there is the possibility of being charged with a criminal offense.

What can consumers do to protect themselves?

rvBe mindful that if a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is.

Never purchase insurance with cash.

Call the company listed on the policy to ensure it is valid.

Never meet in a public place with someone that claims to be an insurance representative. Insurance brokers or insurers will have branded websites and/or an office; they will not likely ask to make a transaction in a public place.

Remember that even if the motor vehicle liability insurance card looks legitimate, it could still be a fake. Report it. If enough consumers alert authorities of this activity, fraudsters will be easier to capture and convict.

Call the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s TIPS line at 1-877-IBC-TIPS, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-5TIP-NOW, or Crime Stoppers (1-800-222-TIPS).

Worth Pondering…

Travel safely…and stay away from road-gaiters and orange barrels.

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Where Should I Buy My Digital Camera?

In this post I’ll discuss where—and where not—to buy your new digital camera. But first, do your homework and check camera news and review sites.

The above photo of a Burrowing owl was shot at Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, California, with a Canon EOS 30D which I purchased locally at McBain Camera in Edmonton, Alberta. My go to guy is Robert Goertzen. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The above photo of a Burrowing owl was shot at Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, California, with a Canon EOS 30D which I purchased locally at McBain Camera in Edmonton, Alberta. My go to guy is Robert Goertzen. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are a number of good digital photography news and reviews sites on the Internet. Following are three sites that I find helpful:

  • Steve’s DigiCams, run by Steve Sanders, is an outstanding news and reviews site. It allows you to keep up with the latest in digital imaging, focusing on both cameras and accessories. The site contains links to manufacturers and dictionary of terminology.
  • Photography Review, part of the Consumer Review Network provides lens reviews, latest in camera and photography news, photo lessons, and forums
  • Digital Review is a Canadian news and review site. You’ll find ‘best deals’, and rebates available in Canada.

Where Should I Buy?

Photography is an expensive hobby. So, it’s always tempting to look for the lowest price when purchasing a new camera or accessories. But, unfortunately, there’s a lot of counterfeit gear out there and many retailers mislabel items on their website. So, it’s important to use a little caution when shopping for the latest and greatest camera gear.

Buy Locally

Buying locally can be the best option or it can be tough with few choices for the more experienced photographers combined with poor selection and lack of competitive pricing.

Buy Online

  • B&H in New York is widely recognized for having the lowest prices on equipment just about anywhere. B&H is often used as the benchmark cost when buying an item. You will have a hard time finding anything lower than what they can offer. Their level of knowledge, professionalism, pricing, and inventory—new and used—can’t be beat and they offer free shipping by courier in the U.S. B&H is choice #1.
  • Adorama, also in New York also sells huge volume with low prices and reliable service.
  • Froogle, a comparison shopping sites, is useful to establish a good price basis.
  • PriceBlink is a browser add-on that let you know if you’re looking at the best price. If not, it will show you where to find the product cheaper. PriceBlink works with IE, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

Buyer Beware: Avoid Online Scams

The above photo of the Grand Canyon was shot with my Canon EOS Rebel T3i which was purchased online from B&H. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electronics—and digital cameras in particular—are favorite products for unscrupulous sellers. It’s easy to find cameras quoted at hundreds less than list price. Don’t be reeled in by these low prices.

  • Reseller Ratings offer first-hand customer accounts of online retailers to highlight the best and help shoppers avoid the rest. Use this site to see real-world ratings of over 20,000 on-line camera stores especially if you see an on-line deal that seems too good to be true. No fee to join.
  • Gray market products are intended for sale overseas—not in the U.S. or Canada. They have fallen outside of normal distribution channels and are being imported here by third parties. Gray market products are not necessarily bad. Generally speaking, the quality won’t be any less. The product may just have a different name or badge. And, in most cases, the warranty will NOT be honored. Gray market is called gray since it’s not as bad as black market (illegal imports) but it’s not exactly pure white (authorized from the manufacturer) either.
  • eBay and other auction sites should be avoided when buying camera gear. Why? It’s the same as buying from a stranger and you don’t get to see it first and it could be gray market.
  • Amazon.com should also be avoided; you’re buying from a stranger and you don’t get to see it first and it could be gray market.
  • Refurbished lens could be retail returns or demo units. The manufacturer tests a lens, makes any necessary repairs, and resells it. After the lens has been refurbished, it’s in like-new condition. You’ll probably get a 90-day warranty. Buy only from an authorized reseller; otherwise, you can’t be sure who refurbished it.

So, who can you trust?

In summary, I recommend two options:

  1. Buy from a local camera store that you’ve known and trusted for some time. If you already buy most of your gear from a local camera store that you’ve known for awhile, then I recommend sticking with them. Sometimes it may cost a little more to buy from them, but the important part is that you’re buying what you think you’re buying (and not some counterfeit version).
  2. Buy online from Adorama or B&H. Both of these retailers have been selling camera gear since the 1970s, and are used by many professional photographers. I think it’s safe to trust either one of these places.

Please Note: This is the twelfth in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

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Motorhome purchased on Craigslist explodes

In recent posts I reported that four small dogs died and an RV was destroyed in a fire caused by a propane space heater, space heaters destroyed pets and RVs in two separate fires, and six other RV fires resulted in two deaths.

buyer_bewareAir Force veteran Thomas Graley was driving a newly purchased motorhome through Phoenix when flames started shooting through the floor.

“I was coming down the road and the engine just caught on fire,” Graley told azfamily.com.
“All of the sudden flames just started coming out of the pedals,” added Graley’s wife, Candy.

The Graleys have been down on their luck. Air Force veteran Thomas Graley lost his job when the cellphone company he worked for merged with another company. They bought the motorhome so they would have a place to live as well as a vehicle.

“They foreclosed on my house and repoed my car so we bought this so I would have someplace to live,” he said with tears in his eyes.

Today, the Air Force veteran was able to sift through the rubble of the vehicle to salvage a few personal belongings, but nearly everything he owned was destroyed in the fire, azfamily.com reports.

The Graleys found the motorhome listed on Craigslist.

“It seemed like a good vehicle for the price,” Thomas Graley said.

The couple excitedly handed over their life savings of $1,000 to the Craigslist seller to purchase the motorhome so they could drive to Ohio to visit their daughter, who is due to give birth in February.

fraudPrevention“He said that it ran good and that it was road worthy and would make it to Ohio,” Candy Graley said.

Instead, the motorhome made it just a few miles before catching fire.

The Graleys have attempted to contact the seller numerous times with no response. 3TV went to the address listed for the Craigslist seller, but no one answered the door.

Unfortunately, the Graleys probably do not have much legal recourse, according to Phoenix attorney Brent Kleinman.

“Most likely he won’t be able to get any of his money back,” Kleinman said.

Kleinman said because the transaction occurred between two private parties, the seller did not have a duty to find defects in the motorhome.

“You’re buying that vehicle as is,” Kleinman said.

“The only recourse you have is if they try to intentionally deceive you.”

Thomas Graley said because the motorhome was brand new, it was not insured yet. So he believes he will be out his home, his vehicle, and the money he spent to purchase the motorhome.

“It was a thousand dollars,” he said.

“To other people it may seem like a small amount, but to us it was everything we had.”

Buyer Beware

The following core rules for using Craigslist are courtesy networketiquette.net.

Beware of the many scams that users may try. The Craigslist domain is known for counterfeit money orders, bad checks, stolen merchandise, and damaged goods.

Used is a keyword for stolen on Craigslist. Many people have located items stolen from them on the site.

rvThere are criminals who use Craigslist. Since criminals use Craigslist always meet in safe places to mitigate the chances of being victimized.

Follow your instincts when using Craigslist. Sometimes things just, “feel right” and sometimes things feel, “all wrong”. When using the Craigslist domain there are often warning signs that make a user, ‘feel’ like something is wrong before they discover they have been scammed.

If you do not feel totally comfortable with a transaction, wait one day. If the buyer or seller cannot wait it’s probably a bad deal.

Do not accept personal checks or money orders from Craigslist users. Craigslist has alerts about the check fraud that happens in the domain. Do not accept personal checks because of the risk of fraud. Many users make fake checks and money orders or forge blank ones to commit their scams.

Use similar caution when buying or selling on eBay.

Worth Pondering…

Travel safely…and stay away from road-gaiters and orange barrels.

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Avoid Being a Victim of Fraud

The RV Industry, unfortunately, is not immune from scam artists.

Nobody wants to be a victim of fraud, yet millions of people are, each year.

When it comes to purchasing or selling an RV, there are a number of ways that people can get scammed. Each year, some individuals are left feeling the pinch of fraudulent purchases, and the RV industry is no different. From odometer fraud to bounced checks, illegally pulled credit reports, and unclear titles, bad things can happen—and they sometimes do.

In two previous posts I reported on stories that were in the News for All the Wrong Reasons—several relating to consignment sales of recreational vehicles:

During the past two months other scam artists have been trying a make a fast buck.

Illinois: Business owner pleads guilty to federal fraud charges

The owner of Gebhardt Trailer Sales, Jacklyn Still, also known as Jacklyn Gebhardt, 49, of Lynn Haven, Florida, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore in Springfield to mail fraud and money laundering. Sentencing is set for July 25.
Mail fraud carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison. Money laundering carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

The government is also seeking forfeiture of at least $1 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois.

When it comes to purchasing or selling an RV, there are a number of ways that people can get scammed.

Gebhardt admitted that she engaged in various schemes from June 2004 through about April 26, 2010. She accepted motorhomes on trade based on the representation that, as part of the trade, the loan securing the motorhome would be paid. Gebhardt admitted she resold the motor homes without paying off the original loan and kept the full amount, which left two parties responsible for loans secured by a single vehicle.

Gebhardt also sold others’ motor homes on consignment with the agreement that when a unit was sold, she was to turn over the sale amount, minus her commission, to the owner.

Gebhardt also admitted that on at least two occasions after she sold a motorhome and secured financing, she contacted the buyer and falsely represented that she had found more favorable financing from a second financial institution. Gebhardt sent the financing forms to the buyer and when it was sent back to her, she forwarded it to the financial institution and received the money for a second loan. But instead of paying off the first loan, Gebhardt kept the money, leaving the buyer with two outstanding loans.

After the FBI took possession of the trailer sales company’s files, computers, and other records in February 2010, the business filed for bankruptcy protection. The petition listed $6.1 million in liabilities and $136,200 in assets. The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office took possession of dealer plates, licenses, and title applications for customers that same month.

Jacksonville Savings Bank also seized a 2002 Sterling Motorhome and three trailers in December 2009 and Textron Financial seized a United Spectra Motorhome in November 2009.

(Source: Jacksonville Journal-Courier, March 31, 2011)

British Columbia: Ex-Mayor found guilty of fraud in trailer theft case

Former Mayor of Coquitlam, John Kingsbury has been found guilty of fraud, forgery, and impersonation. Kingsbury’s conviction came after he took a trailer belonging to his former business partner from a Langley RV dealership in 2008. Kingsbury claimed he loaned his partner $24,000 to buy the trailer and he was only trying to get some money back from a business deal-gone-bad. Kingsbury believed rightly or wrongly he had an ownership stake in the trailer.

(Source: News 1130, April 1, 2011)

Nobody wants to be a victim of fraud, yet millions of people are, each year.

The good news is that there are ways that you can protect yourself and keep from becoming a victim of fraud.

When buying or selling an RV, stick with a reputable person or dealership. If you don’t feel confident and comfortable go elsewhere or contact your local Better Business Bureau to determine if there are any complaints.

Worth Pondering…

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.

—Peter Drucker

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In the News for All the Wrong Reasons

The RV Industry is NOT immune from scam artists. In yesterday’s post we reported on three recent news items related to consignment sales of recreational vehicles. We conclude with several additional stories that have recently been “in the News for All the Wrong Reasons.”

Campground Owner Sentenced for Arson

When it comes to purchasing or selling an RV, there are a number of ways that people can get scammed.

The former owner of Shady Rest Campground near Gibson, Pennsylvania, Tamara Santarelli was sentenced to seven years probation, reported WNEP. She Must also pay back nearly $100,000 to insurance companies, money that was paid out after two fires at the Shady Rest Campground.

It was related to a 2009 fire at her residence and office at the Shady Rest Campground she owned near Gibson. Santarelli was also accused of a 2007 fire at the bath house on the campground.

The former owners of the campground who sold it to Santarelli said they were just glad the ordeal is over and that they were able to get that property back. Arnold and Alice Manning owned the Shady Rest Campground and sold it to Tammy Santarelli and her husband, even financing the property for them.

The Mannings said after the Santarelli’s failed to make mortgage payments, they had started the foreclosure process. That was when the second fire nearly destroyed their decades of hard work.

As part of Tammy Santarelli’s plea agreement, she handed over the deed to the Shady Rest Campground, giving it back to Arnold and Alice Manning.

Would you purchase this RV? Image courtesy theregulator.net

The Mannings said they now plan to keep the campground in the family.

Texas RV Park Meth Lab Bust

Aransas County Sheriff’s Office investigators executed a warrant which resulted in the taking down of a methamphetamine lab being operated at the Good Samaritan RV Park, and the arrest of one suspect, the Rockport Pilot reported.

Michael Anthony Mayes, 26, originally of Port Lavaca, was charged with possession of various chemicals with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. Mayes’ trailer is the last one located at the back of Samaritan RV Park on the Highway 35 Bypass, near Rockport.

Officials found six or seven ingredients used to manufacture and sell methamphetamine, including chemicals, a cooker, tubing, baggies, scales, filters, etc. They also found counter surveillance equipment including night vision binoculars.

UPDATE: Complaints Filed Against Defunct Dealership

In yesterday’s post we reported that a dozen customers of Top-O-Hill RV Service Center in Aurora, south of Portland, had filed formal complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice over consignment contracts.

Local television station KGW News has further reported that the Berkeys of Southeast Portland want to sell their Hi-Lo RV trailer but there’s just one problem: they don’t know where it is.

Actually, the Berkeys have several problems after taking their trailer to Top-O-Hill RV Service Center, after the business owner told them he could sell it for them.

Nobody wants to be a victim of fraud, yet millions of people are, each year.

The Berkeys wanted $15,000 for the trailer, which they were still making payments on.

They turned over the title and other paperwork and left their trailer with Bill Workman’s “Top-O-Hill” RV lot in Aurora after he saw their online ad and contacted them, saying he was sure he could sell the trailer quickly.

And then Bill Workman died.

Now the Berkeys can’t locate their trailer and they are not the only RV owners with issues who did transactions with Workman.

Over a dozen complaints have been filed, but the Top-O-Hill lot is closed and most of the RVs that were there are now gone. And no one seems to know where they are, or if they do, they are not talking.

A DMV spokesperson said the problems were nothing new for Workman’s business, which had complaints on file going back almost 10 years. However, they did say that Workman always seemed to resolve the complaints when the agency took action.

Now that he is gone, the Berkeys are not sure what is going to happen. All they do know is that they are making payments on a nice trailer that they can’t locate.

KATU News tried without success to speak to Workman’s family members at a home next to the now-empty lot.

In the case of the Berkeys and other customers of Top-O-Hill RV, the attorney general’s office says because the owner has died and did not appear to leave assets, there may be no money coming back.

Worth Pondering…
Here’s what you can do before you buy or consign an RV or any other vehicle.

First check with the attorney general’s office for complaints, then check with the DMV to see if the business has a license and is bonded. Also, check to see if the title really is free and clear so you don’t pay thousands of dollars for nothing.

— KGW Consumer Report

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