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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Morgan RV Park Back on the Auction Block

In recent posts I reported on the financial and legal problems encircling Morgan RV Resorts and that the state Supreme Court had assigned a new company to manage two Morgan RV Resorts, Cold Brook Campsites and American Camping Resort, both located in Ganesvoort, New York.

Morgan-Recreation-Destination-logoIn today’s post, I report on a third Morgan RV Resorts property, Flagg’s RV Resort in York, Maine.

As seasonal campers return to this recreational vehicle park, the foreclosure sale of Flagg’s RV Resort is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, June 20, according to an attorney for the mortgage company.

“The foreclosure sale is going forward,” said Alan Mills, of Indianapolis, Indiana, an attorney representing mortgage holder MLCFC 2007-9 ACR Master SPE, a Delaware limited liability company.

Mills said he believed the sale would be held on-site, Seacoastonline.com reported.

The sale originally was scheduled to take place March 22.

The website for Morgan RV Resorts is undergoing maintenance
The website for Morgan RV Resorts is undergoing maintenance

The day before the scheduled foreclosure, Flagg’s RV Resort LLC obtained a 60-day emergency restraining order in York County Superior Court to temporarily stop the sale, according to court records.

Attorneys in the case spoke with a superior court judge via a conference call the week of May 27, according to Mills.

Neither Mills nor Flagg’s attorney David Pierson of Eaton Peabody in Portland said he could comment on what took place during the conference call.

On Wednesday, June 5, long grass could be seen growing in the park, which has lost numerous seasonal campers amid changes there over the past two years.

In York, the day after the scheduled auction in March, workers at the park who said they worked for Morgan were disassembling and moving to an undisclosed location an estimated half-dozen park models.

When the six park models were originally moved in two years ago, an estimated 10 RV campers were forced to move out.

Other campers, fearful of the change, moved out on their own accord. Where once there had been more than 80 RVs at Flagg’s, now about a dozen remain.

Flagg’s RV Resort has a value of $1.2 million, according to the town’s assessment database.

In 2007, Flagg’s was among seven campgrounds Morgan used as collateral toward a $38 million loan from Countrywide Commercial Real Estate Finance Inc., according to court records.

The Countrywide loan was transferred several times.

The mortgage holder sought to foreclose on all the properties, according to the published notice of the sale.

Morgan Recreation Vacations sought to stop not only the foreclosure on Flagg’s RV Resort, but also on two other Maine properties in Rockport, Megunticook RV Resort LLC and Camden Hills RV Resort LLC, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Morgan Resorts ideal private resortsMorgan was unsuccessful in its request for an emergency restraining order in the Rockport cases. On March 21, the day the Knox County Superior Court denied the requests, the foreclosure sales went forward.

However, the mortgage holder ended up keeping the properties when it did not receive what it considered to be suitable prices, according to the Bangor paper.

Worth Pondering…

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.

—Peter Drucker

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Problems Swirl Around Morgan RV Resorts & Ideal Private Resorts

In recent posts I reported on the financial and legal problems encircling Morgan RV Resorts and that the state Supreme Court had assigned a new company to manage Cold Brook Campsites, a recreational vehicle campground in Ganesvoort, New York, managed by Morgan RV Resorts.

Morgan-Recreation-Destination-logoA second campground operated by Saratoga Springs, New York-based Morgan RV Resorts has been reassigned new management by the state Supreme Court as foreclosure proceedings get under way.

The campground, American Camping Resort, more commonly known as the NASCAR RV Resort at Adirondack Gateway, is in Gansevoort and is home to 150 seasonal recreational vehicle sites, reports The Saratogian.

It is one of seven Morgan RV Resorts-managed campgrounds put up as collateral toward a $36 million loan that was defaulted, according to court documents.
People at the site are worried about their investment.

Bill Carter and Karen Bailie-Carter were sitting outside their camper at the American Camping Resort Tuesday afternoon, trying to relax, The Saratogian reports.

Carter has been coming to the campground since 1985, long before Morgan RV Resorts managed the property.

The land has a place in his heart. So, he said, when Robert Moser, CEO of Morgan RV Resorts, showed up at the end of last summer with a proposal to save Carter and his wife money on their seasonal fees and an opportunity to travel the country, he listened to him.

The retired couple liked what Moser pitched, and put down more than $6,000 upfront on a $17,000 membership to a club called Ideal Private Resorts, Carter said.

Morgan Resorts ideal private resortsMoney is taken out of the couple’s checking account each month to pay for the rest of the membership, he said.

The couple thought this membership would give them access to nearly 50 resorts across the country, save $1,000 in seasonal camping fees each year and provide various other perks.

But as of Wednesday afternoon, only five of the 50 locations they thought they could visit were left on the company’s website. And with foreclosure proceedings now under way, they are wondering if anyone will be upholding the membership they bought.

Carter said he felt reassured he was making a good decision joining Ideal Private Resorts, because Moser had dealt with him in person.

The couple has been calling the company repeatedly and requesting to speak with Moser about their concerns, but no calls have been returned and the company has not sent its promised membership documents, Carter said.

“We just wish we knew what was going on,” Bailie-Carter said about the RV campground.

Its store is closed, it is without security at the entrance or anywhere else in the camp and it is without the amenities campers have already paid for. Four dumpsters with garbage spilling out of them stand at the front of the campground.

A few days ago, the Carters and other campers at the park say, people came in and removed equipment — namely computers.

Now they are concerned their records are gone for good.

The website for Morgan RV Resorts is undergoing maintenance
The website for Morgan RV Resorts is undergoing maintenance

Asked for comment Wednesday evening, Moser said all memberships will be honored and the website is under construction.

Janus Hotel Management Services, a Florida-based limited liability company, has been assigned by the court-appointed receiver to take over management of both American Camping Resort and Cold Brook Campsites, which is also in Gansevoort.

While Janus will honor any seasonal fees already paid by campers, it is unclear at this point how they will deal with the Ideal Private Resorts memberships.

Comments

After a brief perusal of the Ideal Private Resorts website it would appear that the club is owned and operated by Morgan RV Resorts may be nothing but an old scam with a new wrinkle.

Worth Pondering…

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.

—Peter Drucker

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Don’t Skip the Fine Print

When Virginia Vail made a reservation at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls last month through a website called National Park Reservations (NPR), she assumed the $252 room rate would be the price she actually paid.

She also thought she was dealing with the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), as the name of the website implied.

Turns out she was wrong on both counts, writes author Christopher Elliott on frommers.com.

National Park Reservations is a privately-owned company that charges a 10 percent non-refundable fee on all of its reservations.

Since Vail was booking a block of 10 rooms for her extended family, NPR sucked an additional $758 from her credit card.

“I should have read the terms more closely,” she says.

“I should have checked the online reviews.”

NPR is one of several travel businesses that aren’t what they appear to be.

Are they fraudulent?

Probably not, at least not in the legal sense.

But they sure are frustrating to deal with, writes Elliot.

Vail, for example, experienced some trouble completing her NPR reservation; in the end, she called the Yosemite Lodge directly to finish the transaction.

It didn’t matter to the company; it charged the 10 percent fee, even on the room tax.

“It was an outrageous sum of money,” she says.

When she asked for an explanation, NPR sent her a form letter.

“The fee is not refundable,” it said.

“You agreed to our terms and conditions, which explain our fee as we are a privately owned booking agency. Thank you.”

In travel, what you see isn’t always what you get. Yet another reason to alwaysalways read the fine print.

Details

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is consumer advocate and journalist.

Elliot is the author of “Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals” (Wiley), a manifesto for empowering consumers and encouraging corporate responsibility.

Elliot is also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers.

Website: elliott.org

National Park Reservations

National Park Reservations is a reservation service providing lodging and activity reservations both inside as well as in the gateway communities of the United States National Parks.

National Park Reservations is not an authorized concessionaire of any National Park nor are they in any way affiliated with the National Park Service of the Federal Government.

National Park Reservations provides the ability for its customers to make reservations through a toll-free telephone number or by submitting an online request form.

For this service, National Park Reservations charges a 10 percent non-refundable reservation fee based on the total dollar amount of reservations made.

This reservation fee will is billed separately to your credit card under the memo “National Park Reservations”.

By using National Park Reservations, the customer authorizes National Park Reservations to charge their credit card the 10 percent non-refundable fee.

Phone: (866) 875-8456 (toll free) or (406) 862-8190 (outside the U.S.)

Website: nationalparkreservations.com

Worth Pondering…

Make your choice, adventurous stranger.
Strike the bell and bide the danger.
Or wonder ’til it drives you mad,
What would have followed, if you had.

— C.S. Lewis, The Magicians Nephew

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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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Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stones

Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stones, was made popular by John Denver in 1981.

Yesterday’s post focused on one incredible “diamond day” for an Arkansas couple.

The RVing lifestyle is like no other but occasionally a stone or two is thrown into the mix. By taking certain precautions and safety checks on travel days, we’re likely to experience mostly “diamond days,” but that’s the topic of another post.

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

The following stories have recently been in the News for All the Wrong Reasons—the first three relate to consignment sales of recreational vehicles.

Complaints Filed Against Defunct Dealership

A dozen customers of Top-O-Hill RV Service Center in Aurora, south of Portland, have filed formal complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice over consignment contracts, according to local television station KGW News.

The complaints range from Top-O-Hill selling their RV but not paying them any money for the sale to a camper trailer disappearing without the owner notified where it is or if it has been sold.

Some customers who bought RVs from Workman said they found out they could not get a title for their purchase, even though they had paid the agreed amount.

The Top-O-Hill sign in front of the large empty lot on one side says, “Thanks for 22 years,” and on the other side, “We’ll miss you Bill.”

The owner, Bill Workman, died at a local hospital February 2nd due to an illness.

RV rental business owner faces 97 charges

The Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) has charged Arnold Donszelmann of Leisure RV Rentals Ltd. in Millet, Alberta, with 97 charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, The Edmonton Journal reported. Donszelmann is charged with 49 counts of fraud over $5,000 and 48 counts of theft over $5,000.

The charges resulted from a three-year investigation by the AMVIC, said Bob Hamilton, AMVIC’s executive director. Hamilton said the investigation was sparked by numerous customer complaints against the business.

After selling someone an RV, Donszelmann allegedly asked customers to lease the vehicle back to him for use in his rental business, promising them annual revenue and free storage in exchange. Donszelmann allegedly then sold these RVs to new owners.

Hamilton said 28 people had been defrauded out of $3 million by the business.

Leisure RV’s business license was revoked in 2007 by AMVIC, and the regulatory body released a statement in 2008 warning consumers that the business was continuing to operate without a license.

Donszelmann was fined $6,000 in September, 2006, after pleading guilty to a charge of selling vehicles without a consignment license as required under Alberta’s Fair Trading Act.

Former RV Dealer Sentenced in Fraud Case

A Lake Wales, Florida, man was sentenced to a year in prison for stealing more than $78,000 by selling customers’ campers and recreational vehicles on consignment and keeping the money, The Ledger recently reported.

Senobio “Sonny” Rodriguez, 65, pleaded guilty to scheme to defraud as part of a plea deal.

Circuit Judge Karla F. Wright also ordered that Rodriguez pay $78,900 in restitution and serve 20 years of probation.

Rodriguez’s requested that his incarceration be delayed for 10 days so he could undergo some testing recommended by his doctor. Prosecutors objected, saying Rodriguez had plenty of time to take care of such matters prior to accepting the plea deal. The judge denied Rodriguez’s request.

Rodriguez worked as the general manager of Lake Wales RV Consignment Center on U.S. 27, and was arrested in October 2009, according to an arrest report.

He began taking in RVs and campers in 2007 on consignment and selling them, but once the items sold, Rodriguez wouldn’t pay the original owners. The investigation revealed six victims, in Lakeland, Bonifay, Zephyrhills, Sebring, and Lake Wales, the report states.

Detectives also discovered Rodriguez gambled a large amount of money at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. He lost $434,934 from 2005 through 2008, and his total bets during that time was more than $4.4 million, the report states.

To be continued tomorrow…

Worth Pondering…
Bottom line, anytime you hand over anything to someone else to sell, you’re at risk at losing it all.

— Ed Teachout, KGW Consumer Reporter

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