NewsFox 13 Investigates

Actions

FOX 13 investigation prompts Utah to look into potential fraud at General RV

Posted at 9:43 PM, May 03, 2021

After a FOX 13 investigation in April revealed serious discrepancies on a consumer’s General RV contract, additional customers have now come forward with the same smudge on their documents.

The story has since prompted the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division to investigate the dealership for potential fraud.

In addition to the smudge, the math on customers’ contracts do not add up. Each customer was ultimately faced with surprise payments of tens of thousands of dollars.

Lisa Pueblo, who lives in Farmington, was the first customer to show FOX 13 her paperwork. She purchased her RV in 2015.

With the exception of a smudge, showing the number “119” typed on the same line as the number “240,” the documents indicated Pueblo was scheduled to pay off her RV over a span of 20 years, or 240 months.

“(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.”

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

“I would’ve walked away,” Pueblo said. “There was no way I could come up with $63,000.”

Roger Barnes, who lives in Midvale, said he was inspired to take a closer look at his contract despite having (what he thought was) a pleasant experience purchasing his RV in 2015.

“Well, I watched FOX 13 News the other day,” Barnes said. “You had on TV a young lady with a smudge on her numbers. So I looked at my mine, and I got the same thing.”

A FOX 13 review of Barnes’ paperwork shows the same “240” vs. “119” discrepancy on his carbon copy. Similar to Pueblo, his carbon copy is also missing signatures from General RV.

Barnes’ surprise balloon payment is $83,000, also due in 2025.

“It looks like the 119 was stamped on top of it,” Barnes said. “If they’ve done it to me and to (Pueblo), who else?”

Jaime Preciado, in Colorado, also has the same smudge on his General RV paperwork from a purchase in 2013.

He recently learned that his family will owe a $105,000 balloon payment in 2023.

“We’ve been stressed as to what and how we’re going to deal with that in the next year and a half,” Preciado said. “The deception in the sales market to me is just horrendous. People will pull the wool over your eyes and try to take everything they can from you.”

Brent and Debbie Bjerregaard, in Tooele, purchased an RV from the dealership in 2014.

Years later they found a smudge, plus a surprise $73,000 balloon payment, on their General RV contract.

“This is not right, the way they’ve done this paperwork,” Brent Bjerregaard said. “How they’ve done this, I have no idea... To me, it’s one of the crookedest things that we’ve ever got into.”

Once they found the discrepancies, the Bjerregaard family was fortunate enough to have enough money to pay off the loan in full.

“It gives General RV a bad name,” Debbie Bjerregaard said. “We will never buy anything from them again. We won’t. We won’t even look at them.”

Allan Shinney, the director of Utah’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division, stated the fraud investigation into General RV will be taken seriously.

“I watched your initial story, and to be frank with you, I thoroughly appreciated the story,” Shinney said. “The first thing I did when I got to the office the next morning is I wanted some answers.”

“In your 20+ years of doing this, have you ever seen a case like this with multiple smudges on multiple contracts?” asked FOX 13 investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

“Never seen that before. I mean, it’s one thing to say — look we have paper jams. Everyone’s got paper jams,” Shinney said. “Everyone’s got carbon problems, but not identical across the board at different transactions. I have never seen that before.”

“Can you even fathom a reason how that could happen?” Herbets asked.

“They very well could have been deceived,” Shinney responded. “It’s sure looking that way.”

The smudged numbers are not the only shared discrepancy that Pueblo, Barnes, Preciado, and Bjerregaard noticed on their contracts.

In each case, the customers learned the dealership sent “cleaned up” copies of their contracts, without a smudge, to their respective credit unions.

“If this is what they showed me, I would’ve never done it,” said Barnes, looking at a copy of his contract on file with America First Credit Union. “I just don’t think it’s right, because they’re taking advantage of the people.”

Most importantly, none of the paperwork shows math that adds up to a 10-year loan.

In each and every case, it is clear that the total payment was calculated with terms that the customer had in mind, 20 years or 240 payments.

Jade Beckman, the Vice President of Lending for Mountain America Credit Union, said he could not comment on the specifics of individual cases, but he confirmed FOX 13’s method of calculating total payments in accordance with the federal Truth in Lending Act is accurate.

“I think most people aren’t concerned with trying to double check the math, like you’ve done,” 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.”

“If a member is concerned or confused about something and they bring that to us, then we’re absolutely going to present them with options and discuss that, because the last thing we want is someone that’s unhappy with a loan,” added Tony Rasmussen, the Vice President of Public Relations for Mountain America Credit Union.

Beckman confessed credit unions share the responsibility of making sure that the math adds up on contracts before they are funded.

“Anytime we find anything that we don’t think is right, we’re going to check it out,” Beckman said. “It’s totally possible that we missed that and funded that anyway, totally possible.”

FOX 13 has spoken to multiple experts in the auto industry, all of whom said the faulty math on each customers’ General RV contract is “very concerning.”

Some believe the faulty math is even more concerning than the smudge.

Investigators agree.

“(The math) does have to add up,” Shinney said. “We would argue that point to the country attorney’s office... if they interpret it as fraud, then we would be able to file charges.”

Alicia Gewinner, the director of marketing and advertising for General RV, sent an email to FOX 13 insisting none of their employees broke the law.

Gewinner repeatedly declined to provide an explanation for the smudges or incorrect math listed on customer contracts:

“We have completed a thorough investigation of the allegations and confirmed that no one at General RV did anything wrong. We confirmed that General RV followed all legal requirements in this instance. As a part of our standard process, all General RV forms, including details of the payment terms, are completed prior to acquiring a customer’s signature and do not undergo any alteration afterwards. As was the case for the customers flagged by FOX, no alterations were made prior to, or after, the customer signed the documents."

“As common in Utah (sic), all balloon payments are amortized over a 240 month term. The customer pays 119 payments at this rate, then the final balloon payment for the balance. This allows the customer to have the lowest payment possible. The financing contracts the customers have, and which the customers signed, are correctly set for this payment schedule. Each customer can obtain the original of that from their lending institution."

“The original contracts that our customers agreed to, and signed, have the correct numbers on them. The copies the customers show are carbon copies, which are not part of their files with us."

Gewinner went on to state that General RV "completely disagrees” with the “false claims” of each customer:

“However, if they contact us, we will be happy to assist them with new financing options as well.”

“It appears that a few customers have carbon copies of their finance contracts that may be causing some confusion. We can confirm that General RV followed all legal requirements, and as a part of our standard process, all forms, including details of the payment terms, were completed using the printing and software programs available to us at the time. General RV has a strict compliance policy that follows the requirements of all financial institutions and state and national laws when completing a sale with a customer.”

Rennie Acercon, the Vice President of Lending for Jordan Credit Union, sent an email to FOX 13 confirming the financial institution is taking extra steps to review all General RV contracts:

“We love our members, and we take these issues very seriously. We are investigating the discrepancies with the contract prepared by General RV and we are actively working with and helping the one member we know has been affected."

“We have recently been made aware that members of other credit unions may have also been affected by similar issues. As a result, next week, we are sending out letters to all General RV loans with balloon payments to proactively discover if more of our members have been affected. If any other members have been affected, we will work with those members as well."

“We are in communication with and are cooperating with the Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division in their investigation into General RV.”

Nicole Cypers, the Vice President of Public Relations for America First Credit Union, confirmed it is performing a similar review of all General RV contracts.

“Our primary concern is our member. We will do whatever we can to help our members," Cypers said in a phone call with FOX 13. "We are in the process of looking at all of the loans we have with General RV.”

Investigators are asking anyone with concerns about their General RV contract to please file a complaint in person or online at mved.utah.gov.

If you would like FOX 13 to review your paperwork, please scan and email it to iteam@fox13nw.com.

Story Idea or Tips
If you have a story idea or tip for the FOX 13 Investigative unit, please share it with us below: