RW Professional Leasing---Ten Months Later June 25, 2002
by Christopher Menkin
June 21,2002, forty FBI agents raided the offices of RW Professional Leasing in Island Park, NY, on Long Island. Those arrested were RW's president and co-owner, Rochelle Drayer Besser, also known as Rochelle Drayer, 66, of Long Beach, California; her brother, RW's senior vice president, Barry Drayer, 62, who operated a branch in Wellesley, Mass.(reportedly the defacto CEO); another brother, Roger Drayer, 59, of Long Beach, who holds various titles, operating a small office in California; and Roger Drayer's daughter, Jennifer Tarantino, also known as Jennifer Drayer, 31, of Oceanside, California.
Not arrested was Rochelle Drayer Besser's husband, Wallace, who reportedly has been ill for the past three years and has not really been active in the business since 1996, so that probably explains why he was not arrested. However, he was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, June 18th by a consortium of community banks. and arrested Barry Drayer and Rochelle Drayer Besser, Roger and Jennifer Drayer.
An unconfirmed report has Barry Drayer on a suicide watch, as it appears
there may be others to be named in the conspiracy. There is a waiting
list who would like to interview Barry Drayer, who has been able
to talk himself out of trouble in the past.
So far the investigation has found $6.5 Million of outright fraud with a lot of hard evidence.
Prosecutors said RW Professional Leasing Corporation concocted elaborate schemes using up to 100 rented mailboxes as far away as California to send phony checks, sham invoices, bogus leases and other false documents to banks in various states. Based on those documents, the banks lent RW millions of dollars to buy equipment and lease it out, prosecutors said.
The schemes included multiple loans from different banks for the same medical equipment and loans for equipment that was never bought or leased, prosecutors said. It is said it may go higher than $200 million, including the American Express-Sierra Cities portfolio. Vendors, brokers, attorneys, and others
are owed money. There may also be brokers and others to be named in the scheme.
Leasing News has been writing about RW Professional for ten months:
(8/2001) "A high ranking executive with Amex has verified that Amex is investigating possible problems with the portfolios of RW Professional Leasing...
"(9/2001)-Interview with Charlie Lester. First, who is he?
After a 19 year sales and management career with IBM, Charlie settled in Atlanta and somehow got into the leasing business in 1984. In 1986, he founded Lease Pro, Inc. and operated it as a medical niche broker until 1997 when First Sierra Financial acquired most of its assets. The remaining assets were assigned to LPI Financial Services as a new corporate entity.
-After his two-year contract was honored, he resigned and sat out his non-compete period before expanding LPI Financial into a niche broker offering working capital loans to medical professionals.
To understand what went wrong, you need to understand how discounting a lease
and a private label program works.
Discounting leasing is when you have a lease contract with your name on it and
discount the stream of payments to a buyer ( bank, funder, syndicator) ( you may
or may not keep the residual and may discount it too, meaning present value the
stream of payments and the residual, too ). You get paid up-front, instead of the
difference between the monthly interest earned and paid. It may be recourse
or non-recourse, but it certainly will have representations and warrants.
Sierra Cities bought many discounters local operations and combined them
into one, calling it a Private Label Program. They offered the ability to
continue to discount plus to accumulate leases and syndicate them to the
public for a better rate of return; a better margin and more liberal credit
policy. Westinghouse, CIT, Heller, Textron, and of course, GE also
have private label programs, but Sierra Cities carried the Colonial Pacific
Pegasus program one step further. In fact, this division was making
a $20 million annual profit from its inception. What made it so successful:
Oren Hall, Mark McQuitty, Jim Raeder, Charlie Lester, Fred Van Etten,
Mike Wing and others were in leadership capacity
What went wrong?
LN. I think you should explain what the Sierra Cities private broker program
worked to understand RW Professional Leasing as a Private Label Recourse broker.
GC. A Private Label Recourse broker has a contract with a funding source to buy deals at a buy rate 150-250 basis points lower then their non-recourse brokers. In return, the recourse broker is responsible for the collection of all monthly payments and in the event of default, to repurchase the entire lease contract. The recourse broker may also receive an even lower buy rate for handling all personal property and sales taxes.
( somehow the arrangement right before the acquistion by American Express
went from recourse to non-recourse, it is reported. )
---- this is only partial of the first of a three part interview explaining how
the private label program works, now assembled here-----
(9/2001)Open Question for American Express Business Finance "Based on extremely reliable insider information, Leasing News has been told that a former First Sierra employee would be agreeable to "give up" Depping in return for a lawsuit settlement with American Express. The question is, "Does American Express want Thomas Depping to answer for actions he may or may not have taken?" (In reality, American Express settled with this person, Fred Van Etten,
who obviously has signed an agreement not to talk publicly.)
Another individual known to Leasing News who did not want to be named says he was employed by Sierra Cities, came into Houston for a meeting, and at a Chinese Restaurant with Fred Van Etten, Greg McIntosh, Jim Raeder and perhaps two other people, one of whom might have been Tom Depping, when the conversation of RW Professional came up. ( He specifically he did not remember
if Depping was there, but he believed Depping was aware of the Old Kent Financial deal with Barry Drayer. By the way, this person is a regular reader
of Leasing News. ).
He told the gathering he knew the company as Professional Leasing, who did
a lot of dental business, when he was at the Vanguard Division of Old Kent
Bank for eleven years, this person ripped them off for between $6 million to $10 million. Why should Sierra Cities do business with them? he asked. He was told Sierra Cities had the company and personal guarantee---and it was recourse, so Sierra Cities was allegedly protected. ( Now the case with American Express Business Finance centers on what happened to the recourse agreement? and was stock involved in the arrangement? What does Greg McIntosh know? ( He says
he knows nothing. Editor) Will Fred Van Etten talk? ( Not today?) Will Jim Raeder speak publicly why he was let go at Sierra Cities? P.S. It wasnt about Republic Leasing. The spin doctors may have put that out, but Fred Van Etten and Jim Raeder were let go for the same reason. (Leasing News revealed some of it in Mark McQuittys Whatever Happened to Republic Leasing of Anaheim. Editor).What did Oren Hall know?( Reached at his residence, he said he was retired and didnt want to make any comment?) Will Charlie Lester write the entire story for Leasing News, naming names, places, dates? (Perhaps we should have Charlie Lester on Meet the Leasing News Maker.)Did it center around the Private Label Program and RW Professional? Is that why Leasing News spent three days defining private label recourse and non-recourse? Does the leasing public have the right to know to protect themselves in the future? Perhaps from a legal standpoint, do stockholders have the right to know the truth? Is fraud involved. ) How did RW allegedly get away with it with Vanguard? (He made a deal.)
Here is a ethics question for readers who are funders:
Broker calls up funding source and says, "How did you like the way I screwed
you over for $10,000,000. Was it as good for you as it was for me? Well, I
thought it was fun and now you have a decision to make---do you put me in
jail and get nothing or will you settle for $3,000,000 and give me a clean
bill of health, so I can go back to business as usual?"
To all the funding sources, what would your answer be?
(None of the funding sources responded, as they knew they would most
likely take the money. Editor )
If your company policy is to prosecute, how many fraudulent brokers, vendors or lessees have you brought criminal charges against in the past five years?
(Two people formerly at Old Kent Financial can now talk about this as
there was an order signed that employees could not talk about this, but
since the company is no longer in business, neither is the agreement. Editor )
( The answer to the question: Old Kent Financial took the deal---and is reported American Leasing Express did the same thing. Not illegal, but there are many community banks and individual lessees who wish the deals had not been made. Editor )
(9/2001) Charlie Lester American Express and Private Label Programs.
.(10/02)RW Professional starts suit against Leasing News for stories written
(around this time the affects of the 9-11 tragedy affected American Express,
as well as others, as well as the legal action taken by RW Professional, although
we were still collecting background information and working on several stories.)
10/2001) . There was a settlement made between Barry Drayer
and Old Kent for a situation very similar to the latest situation, except
in this case, Old Kent for a lower dollar amount forgave the situation.
For the first time, we publish this e-mail:
I was the one who originally found the fraud when I was the litigation manager for Old Kent. I was not involved in the final settlement but I know how it was done and their attorney's can try to do their best to save the name of RW Professional Leasing but there efforts will be fruitless.
If anyone ever called me to do business with RW or their
principals I would have no problem advising them to stay away. It's poor
business people like them that give brokers a lousy name in this industry.
A lot of lenders lost a lot of money because of their scam and in turn cut off
all their brokers as a result. They need to get out of the leasing industry.
That is just my opinion.
Regards, Susan M. Adamatis
10/2002) Practical Ethics---If Crime is Not punished, Does it Cease to be a Crime?
Written by Kit Menkin and Charlie Lester
If a tree falls on a desert island, does it make a sound when it falls?
This is an old college question, and many of us had fun trying to
justify our answer.
Does fraud exist, if it never is prosecuted? If crime is never punished,
does it cease to be a crime? When do we hear the sound of a tree,
if we are not there?
On September 4, 2001, Leasing News began publishing question and answer articles with Charlie Lester, President of LPI Financial, Atlanta, Georgia, formerly President of Lease Pro, who sold his company to Sierra Cities in 1997. Charlie is also the senior member of the Leasing News Advisory Board. The three day interviews concerned private label recourse programs, the procedures, the process, the pros and cons, and is available on-line at:
On September 7, 2001, we asked:
Open Question for American Express Business Finance
"Based on extremely reliable insider information, Leasing News has been told that a former First Sierra employee would be agreeable to "give up" Depping in return for a lawsuit settlement with American Express.
The question is, Does American Express have reason to want Thomas Depping to answer for actions he may or may not have taken?"
Those at the Chinese restaurant meeting heard about Professional Leasing, who did a lot of dental business when he was at the Vanguard Division of Old Kent
Bank for eleven years. He said this company ripped them off for between $6 million to $10 million. He asked, Why should Sierra Cities do business with them? He was told Sierra Cities had the corporate and personal guarantees---and it was recourse, so Sierra Cities was supposedly protected.
Now, the situation with American Express Business Finance centers on what happened to the recourse agreement and the personal guarantee? and was stock involved in any arrangement? they can protect themselves in the future? Perhaps from a legal standpoint, do American Express stockholders have the right to know the truth if American Express paid too much for Sierra Cities due to hidden problems. Did American Express fail in their job of due diligence before acquiring Sierra Cities and did they cost their stockholders millions?
We have been asking these questions.
. (2/2002) American Express Business Finance Major Loss?
(Would one of the portfolio letters be R? )
A well informed source tells Leasing News that one of the portfolios sold to American Express by First Sierra has a loss of $16 million now. This is getting large enough to be footnoted in the Security Exchange report.
(2/2002) Finance Team of America, Weston, Florida informs RW Professional
they will not longer be referring business. FTA has serious concerns regarding Professional Leasings business practices. We have attempted for the last five months to get straight answers in regards to our transactions( customers) that are in funding as well as delays in credit review and structures.
In addition, our commissions are well past due for months now and we have tried to work with your company on a payment plan for the past due amounts that add up to a six figure sum...Many doctors are being billed without receiving their funds and some are asking questions about the description and structure of their transaction on their monthly statement; vendors have not been paid up delivery, Financial Institutions have not been paid regarding payoffs and Sub-Brokers commissions have not been paid due to PLS not funding Finance Team of America its commissions due.
I am getting complaints that RW Professional is not making payments
on leases, the bank they assigned leases to is now asking
them for payments direct, stating that RW Professional is not
I am told the New York State Banking Investigator is looking into
I am not going to pass this around the entire board; however,
the bank involved is Blue Stem Bank in New York.
Was that the bank you had been talking to who had leases
with RW Financial?
He also says that he filed a complaint with the FBI in Albany and they have bumped him up to a level 2 investigation-whatever that is, but he thinks it is a higher level and the FBI means business. $20,000,000 at Amex, $15,000,000 at community banks and pretty soon, you are talking real money.
Finance Team of America (Eric Castro, Bob Castro, Mommy K.C.
Castro and all the other members of the Castro clan (Fidel was fishing and
could not attend) today in Weston, FL ...unloaded with three hours and a two inch thick file they have been building, including letters from Amex to lessors/debtors saying they realized there was a problem with the lease/loan payoff and they were addressing the problem with RW Professional and expected to reach an acceptable resolution for all parties---in other words-B.S.. They are convinced that Amex cut a payment plan deal with Barry and he is screwing the community banks by taking early payoffs on leases and loans and using the money to make the payments to
Amex. They said they heard he was paying as much as $70,000 a week. The
logic-Amex could sue him and make him go BK and even prosecute him for
fraud. However, each community bank as a stand alone entity will probably
take a 100% write-off and not pursue him since the dollar amount is probably
less than $300,000 per bank plus they may only be seeing a $50,000 problem
at a given time and being a little naïve, not putting 2 + 2 together to know
that their entire RW portfolio is at risk. Plus, they do not talk to each
other and band together---divide and conqueror.
Barry Drayer told me he had 48 community banks in
his network-all established by Al Crawford in Albany, NY.
(5/2002) Finance Team of America makes complaint to Massachusetts Attorney
General regarding RW Professional Leasing.
During this time, the Leasing News stories got the attention of the authorities, several community banks, and some physicians, like one who was asking for a payoff at the bank that he showed they had 11 payments left and the bank 52,and was physician contacted the first bank, before assigned, and it showed he had 11
payments left and was a slow pay. There were two other similar situations,
plus the lawsuit brought by RW Professional former brokers who's clients
were telling them the same thing. Here is one example.
Address = 342 15th Ave E
City = Seattle
State = WA
Zipcode = 98112
Phone = 2066259061
Fax = 2067266056
Email = firstname.lastname@example.org
Add me to the mailing list = yes
Comments = I would love to discuss my nightmarish experience with the elusive Professional Leasing, in detail. I am optometrist who has opened a new practice, even after dealing w/ RW Professional Leasing; you are welcome to contact me. Dealing w/ them was(and is) the worst "customer service " experience of my life.
The internet was bringing us RW Professional Leasing customers who did not know what to do. Community banks were also calling, aware of
the problem. If you run a search on RW Professional Leasing, you will
not find their website, but you will find Leasing News stories mentioned
in over 50% what comes up about RW Professional Leasing.
Names: Bill Redig
Address = 3106 N. Rockton Ave
City = Rockford
State = IL
Zipcode = 61103
Phone = 815-987-4550
Fax = 815-969-8959
Email = email@example.com
Add me to the mailing list = yes
Comments = I have read your articles on RW Professional Leasing and Barry Drayer and was curious if there any updates on the situation. I could find. I work for a community bank that is currently getting screwed by PLS by the means outlined in your article. Thanks
(5/2002) Lawsuit charging RW Professional, Professional Lease Services, Barry
Drayer, Rochelle Bessemer and Wallace Bessemer with 19 counts of fraud to be
filed in the Nassau County Superior Court in NYC being drawn up. Charges made by Crawford and Sons Profit Sharing Plan claiming $850,000 in
damages. Suit requests that all assets of all parties be frozen. Crawford
told me that the hit on the community banks Barry used will take over
$15,000,000 in addition to the losses at Amex. They also plan to sue Amex
for supposedly reaching a deal with the devil where Barry used early payoff money from the community banks to pay Amex's payout plan to keep him out jail.
(Maybe Barry Drayer will cut a deal with the authorities for collaboration
of this arrangement?)
June 19,2002Crawford & Sons Profit Sharing Plan along with East Prospect State Bank, Equitable Bank, First National Bank, First Security State Bank, Northwest bank, Peoples Bank, Sand Ridge Bank, Bluestem National Bank, First Victoria National Bank, American Savings FSB, Mutual Federal filed against the Bank of New York, Rochelle Besser, Wallace I. Besser, Barry Draywer, and RW Professional Leasing Services for over $10,842,333.13 unpaid principal plus unpaid interest, attorney fees and court costs, adding action
was a violation of RICO, too.
(The lawsuit represented by Crawford & Sons only names 14 of the 48
community banks Barry Drayer said he did business with. We may highlight
certain section of the 28 page lawsuit in another report. Editor )
Leasing News has heard from other community banks, which are not mentioned in this filing, and whether they will be filing a class action suit is not known at this
time, but expected.
Leasing News would like to thank the two attorneys who provided their services
gratis to help us with accusations from RW Professional Leasing about our
Peter S. Hemar, Esq.
Hemar & Associates
2001 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 300
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Fax: (310) 829-1352
Kenneth C. Greene
938 B Street
San Rafael, CA 94901
Tel: 415 721 7900
Fax: 415 256 9922
(Who is also on the Leasing News Advisory Board)
This story regarding RW Professional Leasing, the community banks, American
Express Business Finance and Sierra Cities is still unfolding.