Volume 1 Number 29
July 19, 2004




The owner of a local money lending business has been charged with multiple counts of fraud following a joint investigation involving the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Department of Revenue.

Investigators say John R. Hershey, 54, owner of Easy Credit, Inc., 7440 E. Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa, allegedly operated unlicensed money lending businesses providing various financial services including money transmitting, title lending and auto financing.  In addition to operating without a license, Hershey allegedly charged excessive interest rates and fees.  According to investigators, more than 500 Florida consumers seeking title loans were charged interest and fees totaling 110%-276%.

According to Don Saxon, Director of the Office of Financial Regulation, consumers should conduct business only with licensed or registered businesses.

“There are plenty of licensed consumer loan businesses around that consumers can use that are in compliance with Florida law, without having to resort to paying the financial penalties that companies such as Easy Credit, Inc., demand,” Saxon said.  “This is also a great example of investigative news reporting and multiple state agencies working together to better protect consumers.”

Investigators opened their investigation after seeing a Tampa Bay Channel 28 ABC Action News report on Easy Credit, Inc.

Hershey was charged with scheme to defraud, 87 counts of motor vehicle title fraud, 52 counts of criminal usury/loan sharking, and multiple counts for conducting various financial transactions without a license.  Hershey turned himself into Hillsborough authorities late last week.  He was booked into the Orient Road Jail and released on $25,000 bond.  If convicted, Hershey faces up to 15 years in prison.