Bamboozled: Beware the loan danger

If you want to grow a business, you need capital. A loan.BB branding

That’s what Larry Hutt, owner of Eastern Hardwood Products in Newark had in mind last spring. He wanted to do some hiring.

‘‘With a loan, I could have six guys full time. Right now, I have three part time,’’ Hutt said. ‘‘I can provide jobs for guys and I get kids off the street, but I can’t do it if I don’t have the funds.’’

Hutt needed $700,000 in all, but he’d had some business mortgage payment troubles in the past. He did some research and asked around, eventually taking a friend’s recommendation to work with Across Nations, a nonprofit Small Business Administration-approved lender in Englewood.

Things didn’t go so well. After months and months of waiting, Hutt was out more than $2,000 with no loan to show for it.

Hutt’s friend introduced him to Andy Kron, a representative of Across Nations, an organization that could potentially help Hutt get the loan he wanted.

111510Hutt said he met with Kron for an hour to discuss Hutt’s needs for a loan.

‘‘(Kron) said they had inside connections to get the paperwork through real fast,’’ Hutt said, adding Kron promised Hutt would get the money in 60 days.

Hutt said he explained to Kron about his delinquent mortgage payments, but Kron told him it wouldn’t matter. Hutt shouldn’t worry, Kron said.

Hutt liked what he heard.

‘‘I wrote him a $2,500 check, and he said, ‘If you don’t get the loan, you get the money back,’ ’’ Hutt said.

That was March 3.

From then, Hutt said the process was like stirring molasses.

Across Nations took more than 90 days to process the paperwork. A businessman, Hutt tried to be patient, knowing these things can take time.

Finally, Hutt heard from a bank in mid-June, 3½ months after the process started. His application for a loan was denied because of his past mortgage payment problems.
Hutt again talked to Across Nations rep Andy Kron. Kron had another offer that sounded strange.

‘‘He said he has a person — a Chinese lady — who will lend $500,000 at 12 percent for six months,’’ Hutt said.

“I said to him, ‘Let me get this straight. I should borrow half-a-million dollars and sign my building over as collateral to pay a 5.8 percent loan with a loan at 12 percent?’“
And what would happen at the end of six months?

Kron pledged to secure an SBA loan for Hutt by then.

‘‘Are they kidding me?“ Hutt said.


After Hutt turned down that loan offer, he asked Kron to refund the $2,500.

No problem, he was told. The check would be in the mail.

But it wasn’t. Throughout the summer and into the fall, Hutt said he left dozens of messages. Whenever Hutt reached Kron, he said Kron promised to look into the delay.

Or that the check was in the mail.

But nothing ever happened, and Hutt never received a check.

Finally, in early October, Hutt was given a FedEx tracking number, and he was told the check would get there in days. It never happened.

On Nov. 1 — the same day Hutt contacted Bamboozled, and nearly eight months after the process began — Hutt received a check via regular mail for a mere $427.50. There was no explanation for the smaller-than-promised dollar figure, he said, and no one would return his calls.

Before we called the company to ask what was up, we wanted to make sure Hutt was truly due this refund. We contacted the SBA, which said companies like Across Nations may collect a $2,500 deposit to get a loan going. Across Nations is considered a certified development company, which is authorized to provide assistance with SBA loans.

‘‘The deposit may be applied to the loan-processing fee if the application is accepted, but must be refunded if the application is denied,’’ the regulations said. ‘‘If the small business withdraws its application, the CDC may deduct from the deposit reasonable costs incurred in packaging and processing the application.”

Sounded to Bamboozled that Hutt was due his money back. We wouldn’t call the loan offer from the “Chinese lady” a valid one — so we called Across Nations’ Andy Kron.

‘‘We gave (Hutt) the rundown of how many hours we spent putting the package together,’’ Kron said, explaining the smaller refund amount. ‘‘We gave him the option of a loan, and he didn’t go for it.’’

Hutt was turned down for one bank loan. He said he was never offered a loan by another bank, nor did he turn an offer down — except for the “Chinese lady” offer, that is. When Bamboozled tried to ask more questions, Kron wasn’t prepared to answer.

‘‘You’d have to e-mail me something, and I’d be happy to answer with all the documentation,’’ he said.

So, e-mail additional queries we did. We asked for details and documentation for the loan Hutt “didn’t go for,’’ and we also wondered how many loan applications Across
Nations receives and how many result in actual loans.

Kron didn’t answer the questions, nor did he reply to subsequent e-mails and telephone messages.

When we told Hutt that Kron said he’d turned down a loan, he wasn’t pleased.

‘‘They never gave me the option for anything,’’ Hutt said. ‘‘What planet is this guy on? I never heard a word from these guys after they got my money except, ‘The check’s in the mail.’ ’’

A couple of days later, Hutt got some good news.

‘‘Someone got through to them,’’ he said. ‘‘I got a call today saying I would receive a check for the rest of the money in the next two days.’’

Bamboozled called and e-mailed Across Nations again to ask why it changed its mind. No one responded.

We’ll let you know when Hutt receives his money.

If you have a suspicious experience with an SBA lender, let the agency know. Call (800) 767-0385 or file an online complaint: