Auto loan scam results in pyramid scheme pleas

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two men involved in a years-long, multi-state fraud case are now convicted, but they are avoiding jail and even restitution. 

The prosecution in these cases is the state Attorney General’s Office. They made it known last year that they were going after the company known as Liquidation or AutoLoan LLC, which allegedly has $20 million in outstanding loans. 

In addition to the company Liquidation LLC, defendants William McKibbin, 40, and Mark Weiner, 67, were charged with 24 counts that carried a maximum sentence of 120 years in prison. 

Under the name AutoLoans, the Attorney General alleges that the company issued loans to hundreds of people in Michigan and thousands nationwide. 

The borrower would sign over the title of the car to the loan company, which would then attach a GPS tracking device to the vehicle and tow it away if the borrower fell behind. 

But the problem is that the loans would have interest rates that often ranged from 190 percent to more than 400 percent – and that is usury. 

But when McKibbin, who lives in Texas, appeared via Zoom in Kent County Circuit Court, he pleaded no contest to promoting a pyramid scheme and 23 charges of usury — charging an unlawfully high interest rate and false pretenses were dismissed. 

“Prosecution isn’t asking for any jail time,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Payok told Judge Paul Denenfeld. 

The charge is called promoting a pyramid scheme, a law passed in 2018 that clarifies a pyramid scheme as any plan that primarily compensates individuals for recruiting others and not through actual product sales.  

The punishment for intentionally promoting the schemes is a felony with up to seven years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000. But neither of those penalties applied here. 

“There is a significant threat of some civil liability in the future,” Payok said.