August 12, 2022 • By Dennis Beaver
If you have been thinking about getting into the food truck or trailer business, then today’s story will cause your blood to boil when you see what happened to our readers “Denzel” and “Leila,” who reside in Southern California. All names that appear in this story have been changed.
Both are Black, and their race is central to what makes this story so upsetting, so sad. But race aside, what happened to them could happen to anyone tangling with a con. The couple learned the consequences of thinking there was no need to consult with an attorney, do background research on the seller or discover the red flags of food truck and trailer sales.
Plan ‘B’ in their Lives
They married right after graduating from high school, raised three kids who are now adults, and have always been employed, Denzel in construction, and Leila as a cook in family-run restaurants.
“We thought about opening our own small diner or Southern-style fish restaurant, but when adding up all the expenses, realized there was just no way. So, this left two choices: a food truck or trailer,” Leila explained.
Significant Cost Differences
“Expect to pay $100,000 to $175,000 and up for a new food truck. Used – you’re looking at from $60,000 to $100,000, and then consider repairs or state required upgrades,” says Elma Eaton, CEO of Lake Elsinore-based California Cart Builder – in business for over 22 years.
“However, ‘Food Trailers,’ also known as ‘Concession Trailers’ range from $20,000 to $120,000, or more, based on the equipment installed. Often fire marshal requirements do not allow food trucks at certain events, while concession trailers are permitted. For a mom and pop business they can be ideal.”
Found His Website
“We were searching for a nearby company that could build a trailer for us and found ‘Jay’s Discount Food Trucks and Trailers’ beautiful website, that had several highly positive reviews which described both him and his business in terms that spelled confidence and competence.
“We met Jay at the business on Jan. 26, 2021 and were impressed. He said that we would be taken care of just like family as we are all brothers and sisters.”
The couple were on the road to becoming victims of “Affinity Fraud,” in which a con artist targets members of an identifiable group based on things such as age, religion and race.
Promised Completion Date
“That same day, we agreed to pay him $35,000 for a 14-foot trailer which would be in compliance with our county’s health department requirements and delivered, ready to operate on 4/30/21. We gave him the initial down payment of $8,500 and two additional payments in February in the same amount.
“It is now 4/27/22 and we do not have our trailer. He continues to avoid our phone calls and makes up lies and excuses. He sent us the pink slip to an incomplete trailer and we had to insure it!”
“Who Wants to Know?”
I wanted to speak with Jay and phoned his office. A gruff voice answered. “Yo!” “Hi, may I please speak with Jay? Is this Jay?” I asked. “Who wants to know?” was the response in a menacing tone.
“Yeah, it’s you Jay,” I replied. He hung up.
It took me less than five minutes to find a lawsuit filed against him in February of 2019 for breach of contract and theft. It stemmed from his August 2018 agreement to deliver a fully operational trailer to a couple within five weeks. They paid close to $17,000 in advance but Jay never completed the job.
I called his victim’s attorney. Now, litigation attorneys tend to have very thick skin, and it is rare to speak with one who shows their feelings, but that was how this couple’s lawyer reacted, sad and angry at what Jay was doing.
“He victimizes the Black community with promises of building food trucks and trailers, saying that he wants to help them establish their own business, but steals their money instead,” the attorney said, adding, “and his lawyer is one nasty, scary guy, so if you do talk with him, be warned.”
He was right. I called Jay’s lawyer and asked for permission to interview his client to get his side of the story. My newspapers will not print the language he used.
If They Had Only Searched Online
My readers admitted to having been so completely charmed by Jay that the need to do any background research didn’t occur to them. But if they had, and had found this post by “L,” things might have been so different:
“Jay stole $20,000 from me – don’t do business with him – BEWARE!!”
In a future article, we are going to take an in-depth look at the red flags anyone interested in buying a food truck or trailer needs to know. Elma points out:
“We have had people call us crying, relating the same kinds of things that happened to your readers, so you’ve got to do your homework and not be influenced by someone charming.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.