The Veterans Administration has assessed penalties totaling more than $120,000 against four mobile-home manufacturers in its ongoing investigation into illegal practices in the industry, according to VA officials.
The four manufacturers pleaded guilty to involvement in a scheme, known as invoice padding, in which dealer rebates that are included in the invoice price are not identified. The added cost of the rebate is passed on to purchasers, a practice prohibited by VA regulations.
The manufacturers are Catalina Homes Inc. of Douglas, Ga., which paid $10,000 in criminal penalties and $55,000 in civil fines; Fiesta Inc., also of Douglas, which paid a $10,000 criminal fine and $39,000 civil fine; Southern Energy Homes Inc. of Addison, Ala., which paid a $55,000 civil penalty, and Sunbelt Energy Housing of Haleyville, Ala., which paid a $3,000 civil fine, according to a VA spokesman. All four were barred from receiving VA loan guarantees for 120 days, he said.
A fifth company, Melody Homes Inc. of Fort Worth, was suspended from VA programs for 120 days because it refused to open its records to investigators, the spokesman said. Melody recently filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code, a company official said.
Ten other manufacturers have been investigated, and the results of those probes are in the hands of the Justice Department or VA attorneys. Decisions are expected on whether further action will be taken in those cases, the spokesman said.
Thirty-three other companies are under investigation, he added.
A VA official estimated during testimony before a congressional subcommittee that invoice padding may have caused the agency to overpay as much as $3 million on defaulted mobile-home loans guaranteed by the VA.
Three other mobile-home makers paid fines for invoice padding last year, and a fourth paid a fine for charging purchasers for appliances and furniture that were not delivered, the VA spokesman said.