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FOX 13 Investigates: State believes General RV employees committed crimes that cannot be prosecuted

Posted at 10:16 PM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 17:56:05-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Investigators with the Utah State Tax Commission say they believe four General RV employees fraudulently manipulated dozens of customer contracts, but neither the company nor the employees are being charged with a crime.

The Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division (MVED) launched the fraud investigation after watching a series of reports by FOX 13, exposing discrepancies on years' worth of General RV paperwork.

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It all started with Lisa Pueblo in Farmington, who found a “smudge” on her contract years after purchasing a motor home from General RV in 2015.

Pueblo thought she was scheduled to pay off her RV over a span of 20 years, or 240 months. However, on her carbon copy, a smudge showed the number “119” typed on the same line as “240.”

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Because of the discrepancy, Pueblo learned she was required to pay a $63,000 balloon payment in 2025.

“(The paperwork) says 240 months. Everything on here says 240 months,” Pueblo said, pointing to various spots on her contract. “I don’t know how they’ve done it, but everything on everything says 240, other than where it’s been typed over.”

Dozens of additional customers came forward after learning of Pueblo’s story, with the same smudge on their documents.

In addition to the smudge, the math on customers’ contracts did not add up.

Each customer ultimately learned they were required to pay surprise balloon payments of tens of thousands of dollars.

“I really felt like I wasn’t alone,” Pueblo said. “I told them. I said I will have Adam at FOX News investigate – take this story and run with it, because I’m sure I’m not the only one.”

The state’s investigation determined General RV employees intentionally smudged the numbers to add balloon payments and cut the length of the loans in half.

“I don’t think the credit union changed it,” said customer Roger Barnes, in Midvale. “I think General RV changed it.”

Credit unions across Utah say they performed audits on all General RV contracts on file. They reported dozens of discrepancies to the state, showing faulty math on the paperwork.

In each case, credit unions said they watched the FOX 13 investigation and have worked with customers to refinance the balloon payments.

“I firmly believe that as a result of your story, these victims would not have been made whole,” said MVED Director Allan Shinney. “I’ve been here 21 years... that just doesn’t happen.”

“I’m glad it really helped a lot of people, because otherwise it would been like the biggest gut kick in the world,” Pueblo said. “I can’t express enough how grateful I am that you took this story on... You followed through, and you’ve made a huge outcome and helped so many people. I just can’t thank you enough.”

Jade Beckman, the vice president of consumer lending for Mountain America Credit Union agreed that each of the credit unions probably should have caught the discrepancies earlier.

“I think it’s totally possible that we could miss that,” Beckman said. “The smudge thing? I don’t know how that exactly happens. We get the contracts when they come in through the dealership, they come electronically to us.”

“None of the information made us believe (the credit unions) were in on it in any way,” Shinney said. “But they did not do their due diligence.”

FOX 13 obtained a copy of the state’s criminal investigation into General RV through a public records request.

According to the report, investigators determined four General RV employees, who all worked at the Draper location between 2014 and 2017, were responsible for manipulating paperwork.

“There were crimes, in my opinion, committed,” Shinney said. “I clearly know the difference between a 20-year loan and a 10-year loan with a balloon payment.”

However, MVED said the major “stumbling block” of the criminal investigation into General RV had to do with statute of limitations.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told FOX 13 his office could not take action because the sales happened too long ago.

According to Utah state law, charges of communications fraud must be filed within four years. MVED’s review of the contracts has not found a problematic transaction more recent than early 2017.

“These are often difficult cases to prosecute, but that doesn’t mean we don’t prosecute hard cases. We do all the time,” Gill said. “The statute of limitations means that we have a hard stop... That doesn’t mean that crimes didn’t happen, that there weren’t victims, but our agency is precluded from acting upon it. For me to make a comment on it would be unfair.”

According to the case file, some of the employees blamed “outdated” computer software, which is why they taped a piece of paper over the documents as they printed. This created a smudge on the customers’ carbon copies.

At least one employee told investigators that “thousands of deals were done this way,” but insisted the goal was not to deceive the customer.

The state said it was never able to find a reasonable explanation for so many instances of faulty math on the paperwork.

The names of the four General RV employees are not being publicly released.

“The one person that I believe to be the one that was the ‘mastermind’ is no longer in the state of Utah,” Shinney said. “He’s not here.”

“I think they should go to prison. I mean, everything about it was wrong!” Pueblo said. “I just think it’s so deceitful for these salesmen to do this... It would be amazing if their names came out, and buyer beware!”

Gill said the state’s four-year time limit to file charges is “worthy for discussion and debate.”

“I don’t get to create the laws. I have a responsibility to enforce them,” Gill said. “For general felonies, four years is a reasonable time... Statute of limitations are important because you want to report crimes in a timely fashion. When peoples’ experiences and memories are fresh.”

The state's investigation found none of the four employees work for General RV anymore, although some do still work in the financing industry.

According to MVED, General RV cooperated with the investigation.

“There is no question in my mind that if a complainant would have come forward one year (or) 18 months into that loan payment? I believe we would have gotten a prosecution,” Shinney said. “I have no doubt in my mind we would have gotten a prosecution on that.”

If the state receives new complaints on a transaction that took place within the last four years, MVED could still resubmit the case for prosecution.

When FOX 13 reached out to General RV for comment, the company did not respond.

“I still honestly believe that there was wrong done, and it was deceitful,” Shinney said. “While I’m disappointed that the case wasn’t prosecuted, I understand why it wasn’t.”

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