In December 2010 I contacted Pinnacle Print and Copy about an ad they had posted on craigslist for a Xerox Docucolor printer. Kevin Byram responded promptly and we spoke about my specific needs. I own a small home based business and at the time I contacted them I had been in business for just under two years. I expressed interest in their financing options.
Over the next few months Pinnacle worked on my behalf in order to secure what I thought was to be a favorable lease. They really gave me the impression they were on my team. I came to understand that as a small business that had only been in business for about two years my financing options were extremely limited. After exhausting what I thought was our final option I was surprised to hear from Kevin saying that he had found a lender who would work with us. Over the course a few weeks we ironed out contracts. Sent out deposit and insurance checks to the leasing company. Once the paperwork was signed I received an e-mail from Kevin telling me that if the leasing company were to call me that I had to tell them that the machine was in my possession and that it was working well, and if I did not there would be no deal.
The leasing company called, and I followed instructions. I told them the printer was in my possession. The next day the leasing company called to schedule a site inspection, and I knew something was wrong. I called Kevin's cell phone, and the number on Pinnacle's website. I left a number of messages.
The next day Kevin got back to me and said that it was highly unusual for the leasing company to want to do a site inspection and they had never encountered that before. I began to question him as to why they had instructed me to lie to the leasing company. He had no answer. The leasing company said that if they couldn't come out the next day to do the inspection that they wouldn't be able to get payment to the vendor for another two weeks. I suggested to Kevin that I pay a deposit on the machine, he ship the machine, the vendor could then inspect the machine and he could get paid. He responded with silence. He told me that I had an excellent credit score, and that I had been in business long enough to show that I was not a "fly by night" operation, so the lender should agree to forgo the site inspection. I responded that those are the exact reasons why he should ship the machine. Again, silence on his part. I then expressed concern that I felt that I was being scammed or that I was being used as part of the scam. I was assured that Pinnacle had been in business for over ten years (but they filed for their llc within the past two years). When I brought that up Kevin said it had been a sole proprietorship before that.
He then told me he was going to go back to the leasing company and tell them that I didn't want the site inspection. I pointed out to him that they would be a very weak response, and would certainly raise a red flag to any lender. Silence again. I told him I felt that I had been put in a very awkward position and that I felt that I had done something wrong by lying to the lender. Kevin assured me that I had done nothing wrong, and that everything was above board.
Later that evening I received an e-mail from Kevin informing me that the transaction was being unwound by the lender and that I would receive a full refund of the money I had paid. He also made a number of statements that I believe were meant to make the lender look dubious. He commented that he was skeptical of them because they asked for blue ink instead of black. He then offered to sell me the machine at a discount if I paid in cash or on credit card. I declined his offer.
About a week passed. Jessy Zamorano, one of Kevin's associates, contacted me saying that they had just gotten an amazing deal on the exact printer I was looking at and that they could sell it to me for 3k less than the machine I was originally going to lease through them. I declined and asked them when I could expect my refund and I requested the contact information for the lender, whom I had had no direct communication with up until this point.
I called and e-mailed the lender. I explained how I had never had possession of the machine and that I wanted to make sure that Pinnacle was NOT going to get paid and that I would like to receive a refund. The following business day I receive a phone call from the president of the leasing company who explained to me that lying to a lender is fraud and is a Federal offence. I was asked to forward any and all communication I had with Pinnacle and did so. I was also told there was a slim chance that I would get a refund of the money that I paid.
After getting off the phone with the lender I then tried to call Kevin's cell phone only to find it out of service. I then tried to call the phone number on the website and it went to an un named voice mail box. I sent and e-mail and Jessy responded. Through these e-mails I came to learn that Pinnacle had been telling the leasing company for three weeks via phone and in written correspondence that I had possession of the machine and that they needed to be paid. The lender was shocked to find out that I did not have the machine and told Pinnacle that they would no longer be able to do business with them.
Later that same afternoon the president of the leasing company called me again to inform me that my e-mails showed that Pinnacle had in fact directed me to lie to them, and that I would receive most of my deposit back. I then contacted Pinnacle again, and asked them if they would be refunding me the $145 document fee, which I understand is not a lot of money, but it was the principal. Jessy responded with the following:
"We find this all very odd. This morning you start off using capital letters "FRAUD". We tell you what our attorney says and that you and we did nothing wrong. You respond that "so and so insists you won't get a refund". Guess what? Our attorney was right. You are getting a refund, now aren't you? The leasing company is underhanded and their trickery and scare tactics are lame as are their unannounced site inspections... They say they don't want to do business with us and we find that humorous seeming it was them that messed up the deal in the first place and why would we want to do business with a leasing company that does unannounced site inspections, puts fear into a customer and takes from 02/04 until 02/24 to transact a deal when other lenders we use take 3 days for the whole process start to finish and don't do site inspections? We've been in the industry for over 10 years and Kevin's been in it 15 years before that with Xerox Corporate. Once First Pacific refunds we will be happy to send you a hundred bucks. We appologize that we did not know the manner in which First Pacific handles their business. Had we known we would have never introduced them to you or let them pretend to handle your deal with us."
A few hours later Jessy was informed that Pinnacle had been added to the "no fund" list and that a copy of their e-mails to me instructing me to lie would be sent to other lenders. Jessy then emailed me saying
"Thank you so much for forwarding my email to the leasing company. After we bent over backward to get you a lease when noone wanted to touch you this comes as a real slap in the face. "
I wrote Jessy back and explained that I was cooperating with the bank because I felt what had been done was un-ethical and possibly illegal. I explained how I had done some internet searching and found out the link between Kevin Byram, Pinnacle Print and Copy, and Excel Business Systems. I informed Jessy that I has read the reports on this website and that I had located Kevin's criminal record from the 80's where it showed that he had been convicted, and served time for some sort of theft.
I then stated that if this transaction had been above board from the start none of this would have happened. I also commented that I had no problem with a site inspection. Why should I? The bank technically owns the property shouldn't they have the right to inspect their investment?Rather than address what happened or try to explain their actions Jessy responded with the following
"Funny you would criticize Kevin when he has been in the industry as a prominent leader for over 20 years. What he did as a child (teen) has nothing to do with what he does now at 50. Also, we don't work out of our house like some people do. Staff of 17."
I don't see why I should be ashamed of working out of my home. I run my business out of my home so that I can care for my children. I enjoy what I do and I'm proud of what I have built. I can honestly say that this has been one of the worst experiences with a vendor that I have EVER had. I have learned a lot and I hope that others can learn from my mistakes.
Everything in this report can be backed up by an e-mail trail. I've done my best to accurately document what happened. I am taken back by the personal nature of Jessy's comments. Not once has anyone at Pinnacle taken any responsibility for what happened. They act as if lying to a lender is standard operating procedure, and that I, the small business owner, should be grateful to them for getting me involved in this mess.