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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Consignment Fraud Involves 2 Generations of RV Dealers

The whole concept of RVing is to have fun and enjoy your leisure time, especially for snowbirds and for weekenders.

Wahweap RV Park & Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The whole concept of RVing is to have fun and enjoy your leisure time. Camping at Wahweap RV Park & Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But two RV dealers in Tucson, Arizona, have made the experience anything but fun after taking the RVs and the victims’ money, reports KVOA, News 4 Tucson.

RV Coachworks International has been scamming customers out of thousands of dollars. They con customers into agreeing to allow them to cosign on their RV, and the customers never get money when they are sold.

Genie Patton and her husband purchased a camper for their pickup truck. When it didn’t suit their needs, the couple cut a deal with RV Coachworks International on North Sixth Avenue. The dealer would sell the camper for $8,500. That was nearly two years ago.

She told KVOA one day the owner of RV Coachworks International called her to say the camper was sold to a man who took it to Canada.

“As soon as the check cleared and when it got everything. Some mixup in Canada with this or with that,” Patton said.

“I kept getting the runaround so I never got an actual time and date that I was to be paid.”

She showed the News 4 Tucson Investigators the agreement signed in July 2013.

North Llano River RV Park, Junction, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The whole concept of RVing is to have fun and enjoy your leisure time. Camping at North Llano River RV Park, Junction, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finally, Patton filed suit in Tucson for her money. That’s when she found out the business was about to cease to exist.

“I let him consign my camper under good faith and now you know, we’re the ones that are having to pay,” Patton said.

Jeffrey Loomer ran into the same situation with the RV consignment. He put up his RV in 2006. He put it up with a now defunct business, Canyon State RV. Records show a Lorenzo Michael Caracciolo, Jr., owned Canyon State RV before it closed.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators also found records showing that a Lorenzo Caracciolo, Sr., owns RV Coachworks, a mere seven blocks away.

Last June, Loomer was told the RV had sold. Like Patton, he also never saw any money.

“I have not received anything and there have been multiple phone calls and personal appearances down there,” Loomer told News 4 Tucson.

In Loomer’s case, he received a seller’s fee agreement from Canyon State RV. And eight years later, a sales proceeds invoice from RV Coachworks. Both were for the same RV.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators probed into the companies’ past and found that both the father and son have been accused in several cases for pulling the same exact same type of scam.

Whiskey Flats RV Park, Hawthorne, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The whole concept of RVing is to have fun and enjoy your leisure time. Camping at Whiskey Flats RV Park, Hawthorne, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In fact, last November, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office brought a case brought against both Lorenzo Caracciolo, Sr., and against the son. A grand jury summoned them on counts of fraud, theft, forgery, and illegally conducting an enterprise.

False documents just like those presented to Loomer and Patton were given to victims in the attorney general’s case. The proceedings mention only Canyon State RV, not RV Coachworks International. But judgments in civil cases hold both companies responsible.

In a letter made available to the News 4 Tucson Investigators by the lawyer of one of the victims, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is trying to reach a plea agreement where Lorenzo Caracciolo, Sr., will plead guilty to fraudulent schemes and the son to theft. Caracciolo senior can face at least three years in prison. His son, one year.

One of the victims in the attorney general’s case against the Caracciolos sued both the father and son and both businesses. She won the case last December.

Whether she is able to collect the $24,000 she is owed is another matter. Both father and son filed for bankruptcy last year.

As for Patton, she has tried to fight the bankruptcy claims against Caracciolo Sr. because of the fraud she says she suffered.

American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The whole concept of RVing is to have fun and enjoy your leisure time. Camping at American RV Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I request this bankruptcy be dismissed, she told the court.

Lorenzo Caracciolo, Sr. threatened to call police when the News 4 Tucson Investigators asked him to respond to questions about the indictment and the accusations Loomer and Patton made against him. His lawyer, Clay Hernandez, did not respond to eight phone calls and emails requesting an interview.

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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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 Falling Victim to Online Scam Artists

For many Americans and Canadians buying from online auction and classified sites has become the best way to locate deals.

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

Claude Painchaud, a retired parole officer, found this out the hard way, reports CTV.ca.

He was interested in a recreational vehicle he found on eBay Motors and was not worried about buying a vehicle sight-unseen online.

“I’ve bought and sold quite a few things on eBay and I thought I’d be better protected,” said Painchaud.

That’s because eBay and its financial transaction arm, PayPal, provides buyers with protection.

However the RV vendor convinced Painchaud to wire his money to a bank in Spain, and soon after Painchaud realized he had made a mistake.

“That night I found out with eBay you don’t wire money at all,” said Painchaud.

Unable to sleep Painchaud emailed the company and was repeatedly assured he was protected in the case of fraud.

Then he noticed the email address he was contacting did not look right: it had a few extra letters at the end.

“It wasn’t going back to eBay it was going back to him!” realized Painchaud. “He was using eBay as a scam.”

Painchaud called his Canadian bank. But it was too late—the money had already been wired, reports CTV.ca.

Desperate to stop the transaction, and able to speak Spanish, Painchaud made several phone calls to a bank in Valencia, Spain.

“They were able to stop it at the last minute,” said Painchaud.

Bank and fraud investigators in Spain told Painchaud that Romanian scam artists with accounts in Valencia are targeting Americans, Canadians, and Europeans on auction websites.

“We’re talking millions, millions of dollars—and it’s on the increase,” Painchaud told CTV.ca.

Police say too often people just say goodbye to their money because they feel powerless or are too embarrassed to admit they’ve been had.

Painchaud’s instincts, his persistence, and his knowledge of the Spanish language paid off.

“I was extremely fortunate that we were able to get this money back. A ten thousand dollar hit in my bank account would have been disastrous,” said Painchaud.

Painchaud has phoned eBay several times and never received a response; however, the company has issued a warning about scams on Craiglist that promise eBay protection packages. eBay says its protection programs only apply to eBay purchases.

The company also has a list of common warning signs of fraud. They include:

  • Deals that are too good to be true
  • A seller who says they can’t meet the buyer, or show off the item for sale
  • A seller who claims to have made arrangements with eBay’s vehicle purchase protection or finance centers
  • A seller who requests payment by a money wire like Western Union or Moneygram

For those who have already wired money out of their account very little can be done.

Often the only way to recover money is if the receiving party agrees to return it.

Those who think they have been a victim of fraud should file a police report, and contact their bank branch. Those agencies need check numbers, copies of all emails, and money order receipts.

Unfortunately, con artists are becoming more sophisticated and fraudulent activities are on the rise. Local police departments and federal agencies such as the FBI are overburdened with mounting cases of identity theft and fraud.

Banks and shipping companies are also aware of these scams, but seldom intervene on your behalf. Thus, it is becoming increasingly important to learn how to protect yourself from these threats.

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

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