PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) - The owner of a recreational vehicle consignment business was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday, nearly two years after his shady business practices were first exposed by Better Call Behnken.
Jeremy Raney, 39, of Consignment RV in Largo was found guilty of defrauding customers in May. The business was previously owned by Raney's father, but Raney was put in charge when his dad had a heart attack. The business reportedly went downhill from there, as Raney used Consignment RV as "his own personal piggy bank."
State prosecutors allege Raney took in RVs on consignment, then sold them and kept the money for himself, leaving RV sellers with nothing and buyers without a title for their purchase. Their case involved seven victims.
At his sentencing Monday, a number of Raney's family members and friends pleaded to Judge Michael F. Andrews to show mercy and allow him to work in order to pay off his debts to the victims.
Raney's victims, on the other hand, seemed more interested in seeing him go to prison.
"I want the most you can give him," said one victim who lost $150,000 and claimed Raney ruined her life.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office began investigating Raney after our Better Call Behnken report aired in Oct. 2016 and found at least seven victims.
Raney was arrested in Jan. 2017.
Last month at his trial, Raney spent nearly three hours on the stand, facing heated questions from the prosecutor.
"I don't know where the money went," Raney testified. "It sure didn't go in my pocket."
State prosecutors argued that at least seven customers got stuck in deals that cost them as much as $150,000. The state presented bank transactions showing Raney spent lavishly at strip clubs, bars and restaurants.
"He used these people's life savings to fund his dream," said prosecutor Liz Jack.
But Raney testified that he didn't know of any problems until Better Call Behnken showed up at his door demanding answers. I was subpoenaed to testify earlier this week.
In the middle of our Better Call Behnken investigation, Raney sent me a text with a photo of a copy of a check to pay off a customer's loan. He said it was in the mail, but it never arrived.
Raney's business manager said under oath that he told her not to send the check and that she ended up shredding it.
Raney claimed he trusted the employee to run the business and that he's the victim of embezzlement.