Former dealer in Minnesota gets prison for bad checks
A former suburban Minneapolis dealer was sentenced to 45 months in prison after pleading guilty to three charges of theft by swindle.
Ramsey County District Judge Gregg Johnson also ordered John David Berken Jr. to pay $92,000 in restitution to financial institutions that he cheated.
The felony complaint from the Ramsey County prosecutor's office describes an 11-month check kiting scheme in 2011 and 2012 involving multiple banks and multiple accounts throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
For example, over three days in June 2011, Berken opened an account at a bank in Woodbury, Minn., using a check written on a business account closed in 2006; the next day deposited another bogus check written on an account closed in April 2011 at the bank's Eagan, Minn., branch, withdrawing cash during the transaction; then on the following day withdrew cash from the bank's branch in St. Paul. Over the 11-month period, Berken withdrew more than $100,000 in cash, prosecutors say.
Berken had owned Forest Lake Ford in Lake Forest, Minn. The dealership, which has closed, went into receivership in 2008 after American Express accused Berken in a civil suit of misusing the store's charge card and merchant account to get millions in cash to repay Ford Motor Credit Co. and bank loans. He reached a $3.8 million settlement with American Express.
At the sentencing hearing, Berken told the judge that "he had a dealership management position lined up and therefore should not go to prison," a spokesman for the county attorney said. "The judge clearly did not see things his way, and no proof of any position was offered," the spokesman said.
Berken has previous convictions for arson, forgery and theft.
Ex-Ohio dealer accused of theft
A former dealer in Kalida, Ohio, faces felony theft charges for allegedly defrauding three banks by failing to repay floorplan loans and using duplicate title documents as part of the scheme.
Randy Unverferth, a principal in the now-closed Unverferth Motor Sales, has pleaded not guilty. The store sold Dodges and Chryslers.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 10, the Putnam County prosecutor's office said.
The indictment and a Putnam County sheriff's office report accuses Unverferth of theft by deception of $150,000 to $750,000 from Fort Jennings State Bank, the same amount from Ottoville Bank and between $7,500 and $150,000 from Union Bank. The most egregious of those cases involved 16 vehicles.
According to the sheriff's report, the dealership obtained duplicate titles and then sold the vehicles "without the banks' knowledge."
-- Eric Freedman