Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Continuing Adventures of Bernie Patton, Fraudster

It seems our good friend Bernie Patton* might be feeling the heat in regards to some of his exploits and is desperately trying to avoid attention from the Authorities.

While investigating the claim in regards to a stolen caravan, further information came to light in regards to his recent activities.

The current occupants of his former premises paid Bernie the sum of $10,000 on the belief that he was acting for the landlord and that the monies paid would cover their rent for a month, plus a month as bond, and also the sale to them of some chattels on the premises.

All good except that the actual landlord was surprised to find them on the premises, Patton had not told him he was vacating, nor that someone else was moving in, and certainly no money was paid to the landlord by Patton, who was also several months in default.

But that's not all.

I also located Lex*,  an individual who had recently purchased a vehicle from Bernie. Bernie had convinced him to rent out space in the warehouse for his business he was setting up (a mechanic's workshop). He also talked this individual into purchasing a van from him, even though he had a disqualified licence and could not actually drive it.

"Lex," Bernie said, "You can't carry on business as a mechanic and not have a vehicle of your own."

Lex agreed, particularly when Bernie said that he would actually make all the payments himself as well as taking care of the insurance. All Lex needed to do was get someone in his family to put their name on the financing documents as a "formality".

Lex talked his cousin, Vinnie*, into doing this. Bernie told Vinnie that when the documentation from the finance company arrived, they should bring it into him and he'll sort everything out.

Well, the first sign of things not going well started almost immediately when Lex and Vinnie asked about using the van. Bernie explained that while the ownership was in Vinnie's name, as he was paying for the vehicle it really was Bernie's. He said that they could use it for a couple of days but he would get back to them when it was available.

They never heard from him again.

Shortly afterward, Vinnie was at a store trying to make a purchase on credit and his application was declined. Turns out that not a single payment had been made in regards to the vehicle, or the insurance policy, and the defaults had been listed against his credit history.

Vinnie was livid! He and Lex immediately went to the warehouse to demand an explanation, only to find Bernie had flown the coop. They left their details with the current occupants, which is how I came to contact them and learn of their situation.

From them I learned that Betty*, the owner of Black Star Finance* (a fringe lender of last resort) had around a dozen highly suspect loan agreements arranged through Bernie where the vehicles were not with the registered owners and were otherwise unaccounted for, and payments had not been forthcoming. 

Betty had also managed to locate an individual who alleged Bernie had paid him $1000 to take out a loan in his name in regards to a vehicle. The vehicle was 'sold' to him for substantially more than its actual value.

However, Betty was loath to give me much more by way of detail as she fears that if Bernie is prosecuted, she may not be able to reclaim any of the property that she has a secured interest in. Instead, she is trying to pressure Bernie into returning the vehicles to her.

So, as it transpired, Bernie contacted Betty and stated that he left the van that he had sold Vinnie in a local bar's car park in town. Lex called me and I said I would go and check it out. Sure enough, there it was, the keys had been left with bar staff who positively ID'ed Bernie from a photo I had. Also, they had CCTV footage of him entering the bar and handing the keys over.

I phoned the police. Vinnie and Lex were intending to go into the local station to make a complaint on Monday anyway in regards to the vehicle so I explained to the police that I was in possession of a vehicle that had been ostensibly stolen although not reported at this stage. And, in fact, the whole transaction regarding the sale might be fraudulent.

That was so out of the norm that I had to wait nearly two hours while they decided what could be done. No crime had been reported but also the vehicle couldn't really be returned to Vinnie and Lex because as no money had ever changed hands, they weren't actually the owners...

In the end, it was decided that as Vinnie and Lex would be making a complaint in regards to Bernie, the vehicle could be returned to them in the interim and ownership could be sorted out later.

I look forward to developments next week.

* Usual story, no real names etc...

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