WEB SPECIAL: More easy money? Advance fee company operators arrested

| 4/23/2002

In "Easy money?" (Dec/Jan 2002), Land Line warned truckers about advance fee finance companies bilking truckers for application fees and down payments for non-existent and high-interest loans. As soon as subscribers received their magazines, owner-operators began calling OOIDA and Land Line with more tales of advance fee woes.

One such owner-operator was Max Pabilonia, of Austintown, OH, who paid an application fee and deposit to a Florida company called APFG Inc. He quickly recognized the scenario and knew he'd been taken. He immediately reported the company to the Florida Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission, as instructed by OOIDA and Land Line in the article. He says the attorney general's office found the two women operating with a fax machine and telephone from an apartment or condominium. He says the attorney general shut down the operation and seized more than $100,000 in assets.

Now, published reports say the Florida Department of Banking and Finance arrested the two Florida women, Martha Elena Pino and Vianca Patricia Aguilar of Coral Springs, FL, last week. According to reports, the women took more than $250,000 from more than 47 victims and face 47 counts of felony grand theft, 49 counts of advance fee fraud and one count of an organized scheme to defraud the public.

Apparently, the two women distributed faxes and e-mails to used truck dealers, offering alternative truck financing to buyers who were rejected by other finance companies. Buyers were required to overnight a money order or cashier's check to cover a $399 loan processing fee plus a 10 percent deposit. Each trucker lost $5,000 to $47,000 on these non-existent loans. The Department of Banking and Finance is compiling a database of victims to possibly receive restitution from APFG. Truckers, who may have been victimized by this company, should contact Investigator Robert Cresbo at 1-800-298-0485, according to Joseph DiGennaro, area financial manager for the Fort Lauderdale regional office. Victims also may download a complaint form at http://www.dbf.state.fl.us/investigations/cmpfrm.PDF or e-mail their complaint to dbf@mail.dbf.state.fl.us.
By Rene Tankersley