When 26-year-old Martha Oliver and her boyfriend James Fainter moved to Columbia four years ago, they hoped to eventually save enough money to purchase a mobile home on their own land.
Last spring, Oliver endured a whirlwind sales pitch by Quality Pre-Owned Homes, a Columbia company owned by Amega Sales Inc. After receiving repeated assurances from the company that she would have no problem securing financing, Oliver said she signed a contract and put down $5,000, most of which she had borrowed from friends, on a new mobile home.
However, the next day Oliver had second thoughts about the purchase and tried to get her money back. She was turned down, she said.
“They told us if we didn’t go through them, we couldn’t get a loan through anybody else and we’d never get a new home,” Oliver said.
On Monday, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed suit against Amega Sales in Boone County Circuit Court. The suit alleges in part that the company and its president, Greg Deline, misrepresented potential buyers’ ability to get approved financing and fraudulently kept their down payments.
In addition to Quality Pre-Owned Homes, Amega Sales does business as Amega Mobile Home Sales Inc. in Ashland; Columbia Discount Homes in Columbia and Mark Twain Mobile Home Sales in Audrain County. The suit names Deline and these businesses, as well as DeLine Finance LLC and Service Pro Inc., as defendants.
Scott Holste, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said his office has received more than 150 complaints against Amega in the last five years, the majority of which originated in central Missouri. Some complaints were settled through mediation, Holste said, but the large number and scope of consumer complaints led to Monday’s legal action.
Holste said that the state would seek civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation, as well as suspension or revocation of Amega’s license to sell manufactured homes.
Specific charges leveled against Amega in the suit include: falsely promising consumers pre-approval for financing; failing to return consumers’ down payments if acceptable financing couldn’t be arranged; requiring consumers to purchase insurance through Amega as a condition of purchasing a home; and making false promises about mobile homes’ features and setup services provided.
Oliver’s story is similar to many of the complaints listed in Nixon’s suit against Amega.
After she signed the contract, Oliver said, salespeople at Quality Pre-Owned Homes told her that the purchase could not be approved because she and Fainter did not make enough money to qualify for financing. She was refunded all but $750 of her original deposit, which she was told was payment for an appraisal Amega authorized on the land intended for her home.
“The man who owned the land had already had it appraised, so I don’t understand why they spent $750 of our money to do it again,” Oliver said. Deline could not be reached for comment Monday.
Frank Tinsley, manager of Quality Pre-Owned Homes, said Amega Sales Inc. sold roughly 200 new mobile homes in 2003 — 70 percent of them within a 100-mile radius of Ashland. Tinsley said he was unaware of the lawsuit, but said that Amega always strives to help customers get the homes they desire and to resolve any complaints quickly.
“Greg is very committed to what he does, and he always has good intentions at heart,” Tinsley said. “He will go to great lengths to get these people financed, even when they can’t get financed anywhere else.”
Holste said Nixon’s office is still gathering information for the lawsuit and encouraged anyone with a complaint relating to mobile home contracts or financing to call Attorney General Consumer Hotline at 800-392-8222. Complaint forms can also be downloaded at www.moago.org.