Thursday, September 20, 2018
Business

Two Tampa residents sue Miami auto lending firm for alleging deceptive practices

Two Tampa residents are suing an auto lending company that they say tricked them into a much longer loan than advertised and tacked on $36,000 to the loan through a confusing debt cancellation product.

According to the suit, Teri and Robin Fanning went through a site called EzLoanLookup.com to get a title loan against a car they owned. A business opportunity had come up that they wanted to invest in, and they believed a 30-day title loan would be their best option to get cash on hand. The site, which advertises itself as "the nation's largest car title loan network," referred them to a Miami-based company called Marlin Financial Inc.

The Fannings, the lawsuit said, eventually agreed to what they believed were two title loans for their two cars, totaling about $24,500, from Marlin. Part of the agreement was that they purchase two debt cancellation products for $36,000 total.

According to the complaint, the Fannings believed that the debt cancellation would act as insurance that covered $36,000 if they were unable to pay back the loans, and that they would be able to cancel it and get some of the cost back. If they didn't buy it, the complaint said, they were led to believe that there would be "an indeterminate delay" before their loans were available.

But the Fannings say the $36,000 was added to their $24,500 loan total. And it was not cancelable. When the two tried to refinance their loans and offer their $90,000 boat as collateral, Marlin would not allow it, the lawsuit said. Then, Marlin said their loans went into default.

The Fannings later realized, the suit said, that the loans were not 30-day title loans, but 24-month loans unrelated to the cars' titles. Marlin is not currently registered with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation as a title loan lender, but as a consumer finance company. The lawsuit further claims that Marlin Financial is owned and operated by Peter Pocrnich, who owns EzLoanLookup.com. The Fannings are seeking damages.

Allison Friedman, Marlin's lawyer, said the complaint is "inflammatory."

"From the moment that Ms. Fanning defaulted under the contract, they have threatened Marlin that they would disparage Marlin publicly and in social media rather than comply with the terms of the contract," Friedman said in an interview Tuesday.

This isn't the first time Pochrnich has been accused of offering title loans without proper licensing. In 2011, California's Business Transportation and Housing Agency issued a desist and refrain order to Pocrnich's EzLoanLookup.

"It's clear from a review of the site that it is in the business of offering car title loans to the public," the order said.

Despite offering title loans, the order said, seven title loan companies he operated in the state were not licensed as financial lenders. Pocrnich and his companies were ordered to stop their business in California until they obtained proper licensing. According to EzLoanLookup's site, the company no longer does business in California "due to state regulations."

Marlin most recently filed to move the case to arbitration.

Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.

Comments
They spent $15,000 adding a driveway to their St. Pete House. Now the city says they canít park on it

They spent $15,000 adding a driveway to their St. Pete House. Now the city says they canít park on it

ST. PETERSBURG ó One day in January, Dana Cremo was on her front porch hanging a vintage screen door when two city employees walked up. "You canít park on your driveway," they said. "Why?" she asked. "Because somebody filed a complaint," they said. F...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco Business Digest for Sept. 28

Pasco Business Digest for Sept. 28

BrieflyPARADE APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE: The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce will host the 2018 "Magical Night Christmas Parade," sponsored by Florida Hospital Dade City/Zephyrhills on Dec. 7 on 8th Street, Dade City. Applications for se...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Federal loans open to Pinellas businesses struggling against Red Tide

Federal loans open to Pinellas businesses struggling against Red Tide

The U.S. Small Business Administration has extended its disaster loan program to include Pinellas and Pasco county businesses affected by Red Tide.Already, the Pinellas County Economic Development Office was taking applications for bridge loans to he...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida adds 20,500 jobs in August, unemployment rate unchanged at 3.7 percent

Florida adds 20,500 jobs in August, unemployment rate unchanged at 3.7 percent

Floridaís jobless rate held steady in August at 3.7 percent, unchanged from July, according to state figures released Friday. That makes this the 11th-straight month with an unemployment rate below 4 percent. The state added 20,500 jobs in August and...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Could Trump starve a Tampa Bay transit project of federal funds?

Could Trump starve a Tampa Bay transit project of federal funds?

ST. PETERSBURG ó The Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit line has succeeded where other Tampa Bay transit projects have failed. The project aimed at connecting downtown to the beaches has avoided anti-transit sentiment while securing money and support f...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

TAMPA ó As John Reisinger waited with family at Tampa General Hospital, grief settled in like a fog. So some of the details are hazy.But he remembers the moment when three women in white lab coats approached him.The day before, his niece, Jessica Rau...
Published: 09/21/18
Artificial intelligence might not threaten the human race, but it could be coming for your job

Artificial intelligence might not threaten the human race, but it could be coming for your job

You likely have heard how artificial intelligence is changing the world, from smart phones that keep getting smarter to all the experimenting with driverless vehicles.The rapidly improving technology has also begun replacing workers, especially anyon...
Published: 09/21/18
Former Tampa Bay exec and Chicoís CEO Shelley Broader discusses changing retail in St. Pete visit

Former Tampa Bay exec and Chicoís CEO Shelley Broader discusses changing retail in St. Pete visit

ST. PETERSBURG ó When Shelley Broader worked in Tampa Bay, she was turning around a failing grocery store.It was the early 2000s. Amazon wasnít a powerhouse yet, people were still on Myspace and no one was ordering groceries online. On Thursday, she ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
St. Pete approves biggest budget in city history: $717 million

St. Pete approves biggest budget in city history: $717 million

ST. PETERSBURG ó The City Council blessed the largest budget in city history on Thursday night, adopting a $717 million budget that starts Oct. 1.The 2019 budget is about $200 million more than the current budget. That massive increase was driven by ...
Published: 09/20/18
Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data show

Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data show

Talk to your grandparents about marijuana - before somebody else does.The latest release of a massive federal drug use survey shows monthly marijuana use has skyrocketed among older Americans. The past decade, in fact, has seen a sea change in the de...
Published: 09/20/18