of an advance-fee finance company has been arrested on seven
felony counts. Kendra Bernal, of The Funding Tree (not to be
confused with The Lending Tree) and Integrity Group, was arrested
May 31 in Riverside County, CA. Under the two company names,
Bernal offered financing of commercial vehicles and other equipment.
faces six felony counts of taking money and personal property
of a value exceeding $400 and one count of engaging in the business
of a finance lender and broker without obtaining a license from
the Department of Corporations.
alleges Bernal operated without a license from September 2001
through May 30, 2002, and "took, damaged and destroyed
property of a value exceeding $150,000." The complaint
listed money and property taken from Freedom International,
Luis Ojeda, Joe Diaz, Fernando Hernandez, Diversified Sales
and Service Corp., and Jose Martinez.
the complaint noted a violation of probation had been filed
based on these allegations. Bernal was serving a 60-month probation,
which prohibited her from receiving or accepting any type of
money on behalf of her employer, and from purchasing, selling,
registering, transferring, leasing or renting a vehicle without
prior permission of the probation officer.
charges came five months after the California Department of
Corporations issued a desist and refrain order in January. The
order warned Bernal and her companies to stop engaging in business
as finance lenders or brokers without a license in violation
of the California Finance Lenders Law. The same month, Land
Line became aware of Bernal, after two OOIDA members read Land
Line's report about advance fee finance companies and called
in their complaints about Bernal.
Donny McCain paid The Funding Tree a $2,000 deposit Sept. 9,
2001, at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, for trailer
financing. McCain never received the promised financing, but
REB Express, the company where he was leased, put up the remaining
$9,707 for the trailer.
Robert Kovalcin paid Integrity Group $8,795 in December 2001
for a down payment and fees for truck financing that never came
through. After months of telephone calls and complaints, Kovalcin
finally received $8,400 of his money back last month.
-- Rene Tankersley