The former owner of RV Peddler in Bakersfield has been charged with conspiracy and 47 counts of grand theft after numerous complaints prompted an investigation that found the business agreed to sell motorhomes or trailers from consumers in exchange for a fee, but then failed to pay the consumer or their loan company when the vehicles sold.
According to investigative documents filed in Kern County Superior Court, Faye Pyle-Morero and co-defendant Ken Searcy also sold brand-new motorhomes or trailers, then failed to provide registration or titles because RV Peddler is more than $500,000 in debt to a company that lent the vehicles and which has possession to the titles.
Searcy worked at RV Peddler locations in Bakersfield and in Yuma, Ariz., according to the documents.
"Faye Morero, owner of RV Peddler, has unlawfully withheld, misused, misappropriated, and concealed assets entrusted to her and the business," say documents filed by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Pyle-Morero, 76, and Searcy, 69, pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday and are next due in court May 25.
A former RV Peddler employee whose name is redacted from the documents told investigators Pyle-Morero had knowledge of the consignments and directed which consignments to pay off and which to leave unpaid.
According to court documents, another former employee said the trouble began when RV Peddler started going into debt. The business wasn't paying lenders or creditors on time, lost all their product lines and became about $2.4 million in debt, he said.
"I asked where the money was," a DMV investigator wrote, "and (the former employee) said he believed there was internal theft. He felt there was sloppy accounting and believed that Searcy and (name redacted) took money but has no proof."
Multiple former employees interviewed by the DMV described Searcy as a heavy drinker and a thief, the documents say. One former employee said he quit because Pyle-Morero was surrounding herself with "bad people."
The alleged fraud has been going on for years, according to the documents.
In one case, a person entered into a consignment agreement with RV Peddler in Bakersfield on April 2, 2015, in which the business agreed to sell a 2011 trailer and pay the person $16,000 within 20 days of the sale.
The trailer sold on Sept. 6, 2015, for $26,998, according to the documents. The person who entered into the consignment agreement told DMV investigators he was never paid.
Dozens of similar examples are included in the documents.
In 2006, RV Peddler was placed on four years' probation as part of a settlement agreement with the DMV in which it also agreed to pay nearly $65,000 in penalties, costs of the investigation and legal fees.
In that case, an investigation was launched after a customer complaint in 2003 found 93 questionable transactions between 2002 and 2003.
RV Peddler was misrepresenting customers' incomes so they would qualify for loans or inflating the sale price to extract more money from them, a DMV spokesman said at the time. Some customers defaulted when they couldn't afford the payments.
The lender would then repossess the RVs, but might not recover all it was owed from the consumer.
Since 1996, RV Peddler's advertisements have featured pigs, emphasizing the point that the company takes anything in trade, and are widely recognizable in the Kern County area.