Office manager given immunity to testify against jailed RV Peddler bosses
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) —
A third person at the center of what the Kern County District Attorney's Office calls a Ponzi scheme has been given immunity in exchange for her testimony against her former employer at RV Peddler.
"The officer manager was somebody who could see Faye (Pyle-Morero's) direct role in what happened, who could also see Ken (Searcy's) role in what was happening, and who also -- according to what she's told investigators -- had voiced some concerns frequently about how the business was operating," said prosecutor Michael Caves.
Morero, 76, was the owner of the RV Peddler, which went bankrupt in 2016. Searcy was the general manager, Caves said.
Morero's defense attorney, Ed Noriega, said Monday there's no question the business was mismanaged but Morero likely didn't know what was really going on. She's a trusting person, he said. She will plead not guilty when arraigned Tuesday.
Caves says Morero and Searcy cheated dozens of people, skipping on payments owed to customers who left their vehicles at the shop for consignment. They also sold RVs to new customers without proper titles. The effect, Caves said, was that half the victims owned an RV on paper, but didn't physically possess one. The other half of victims physically possessed a vehicle they didn't own legally.
Eyewitness News spoke to one victim who didn't wish to be identified who described the setup in the following way.
He traded in an RV for which he still had a loan to RV Peddler in exchange for a less expensive trailer. RV Peddler told him they'd assume the loan on his trade in.
But they didn't, the victim said. Instead, they sold the vehicle before ever taking ownership. They never bought the title from the victim's bank, giving the new owner a temporary title. The old owner didn't know it, but he still had an obligation to the bank and the new owner didn't really own the vehicle he paid for.
The first victim was alerted by another creditor that he had more loans than he thought.
The man we spoke to says he pressed RV Peddler repeatedly, making threats to inform law enforcement and the situation was eventually made right. He went to law enforcement anyway.
Caves would like for Morero to pay victims back through restitution payments and said he believes she has the assets to get started. Her defense lawyer disagreed.
"I don't think there's a snowball's chance that she can pay restitution," Noriega said, adding that Morero is "mowing her own lawn" and going through a personal bankruptcy.
Caves said there's no evidence Morero was using the ill-gotten gain for personal expenses. It appears every dollar went back into propping up the failing business, he said.