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May 12th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

High-end repo men snag planes, yachts

By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello, CNN

(CNN) – Count the rich among the victims of the Great Recession. Just ask Ken Cage, who repossesses very expensive toys that the rich can no longer afford. Business, HIS business, is booming.

“We sold 12 boats and airplanes in a day,” he told us. His biggest repo? A nearly new $14 million Gulfstream jet taken from a real estate developer who fell behind in his payments. Cage often sells the repossessions himself, taking a small cut of each sale and giving the rest back to the banks.

Cage’s Orlando-based International Recovery & Remarketing Group (IRG) grabbed around 1,000 big-ticket items last year. Cage’s partner is Randy Craft, a former professional wrestler who provides the “muscle” in case a repo goes wrong. We caught up with them as they were going through the final run-through for their next target, a $700,000 Cessna Citation jet.

With most repos, says Cage, the challenge is where to go looking. Many owners move and hide their planes as soon as the bank says they are repossessing. Cage, who is part Sherlock Holmes and part James Bond, has contacts at most airports throughout Florida.

One source told him that this plane, the Cessna jet, was flown to another airport after IRG received the repo order from the bank. Cage discovered that the jet didn’t take on much fuel before it was last flown, so it couldn’t have gone far. After calling around to his sources, he located the Cessna in a hangar just 30 minutes from Orlando.

Before moving out to grab it, Craft and Cage go though the final run-through:

CRAFT: “So, it’s in a hangar?”
CAGE: “It’s in a hangar…”
CRAFT: “That’s why I didn’t spot it because I went by that airport and you couldn’t see it.
CAGE: “We’re going to be able to get into this hangar. We’ve got a pilot there now doing an inspection of the airplane.”
CRAFT: “They (the plane’s owners) know if anything’s going on at this point?
CAGE: “No. They think it’s hidden!...Let’s not put the plane on the field until we have the doors open. (Our pilot) is on the plane, and we can tug it out. That way we’re doing everything kind of undercover here…”
CAGE: “…This seems to be a case of hide and seek…Friday the call was probably made from the bank to the debtor…Saturday the plane moves.
CRAFT: He’ll be in for a surprise. Let’s go get it!

Five minutes later, Cage and Craft are in a pickup truck hunting down their $700,000 quarry. When they arrive at the airport, they spot their own pilot, who has already persuaded the hangar’s owner to unlock the hangar.

Cage is thrilled to finally find the plane and to see it unlocked. “You got it open? Awesome!”

While Craft and their pilot make sure the jet is fly-worthy, Cage calls the local police to let them know they have bank papers to repossess an airplane. “We got the call in. So this is legit now. It’s legal. Now we get into hustle mode and get this baby out of here.”

As the plane is towed to the pump for refueling, everyone keeps an eagle eye out in case the owner or his pilot show up and cause trouble.

That has happened before. “In New Jersey,” Cage recalls, “we picked up an airplane from a flight school there. (He) was a little upset we didn’t let him know, so he chases us down the runway…clearly the airplane had more speed and we made it out fine.”

On this day, the owner is nowhere to be seen, but there’s a hitch. “The jet fuel pump is shut down. So we can’t get fuel. We’ve got enough to get there. It’s less than you’d prefer to have though. So that’s the thing. So he (Cage’s pilot) says we have enough. We have enough.”

Five minutes later the Cessna jets roars down the narrow runway and is airborne. Ten minutes after that the pilot safely lands the Cessna at an airport where Cage keeps all the planes that he repossesses until they are ready to be sold.

Meanwhile, Cage is en route back to his home airport when his assistant calls to say the Cessna’s owner just found out his plane was missing. He instructs her to have it moved into a locked hangar in case the owner tries to take it back.

“We got the airplane,” says Cage, “and now he’s mad because he thought he was beating us, and in the end we ended up getting the airplane…There is danger. I don’t think of it as danger, because if I did I probably wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.”

As for Craft, the former wrestler known as “Rockin’ Randi”: “I find it thrilling to be able to go in and steal something and know I’m doing it legally, and if I get away with it and it goes off flawless, then I’ve done a great job.”

Filed under: Economy
soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. michael

    How do they know if the airplane was airworthy? 100 hour inspection? annual? have the AD's been complied with? hmmm I wonder if anyone checked the maintenance logbooks. Call the FAA.

    May 16, 2010 at 1:34 am |
  2. LOKI

    How can anyone who wears sandals to work like this be taken seriously????

    May 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  3. Michael

    I LOVE this story! Here's the thing....all these reality shows, advertisers and the media in general are selling us this materialistic liefstyle. So the streets are filled with BMWs, Mercedes etc. The funny part is that all these people are posers. They lease or borrow money to buy things they can't afford, because they've been suckered by the media. It's hilarious when they get repo'd back!!! In the meantime, the two richest men in the world right now, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, drive $30,000 cars....because they got nothing to prove. Hopefully the posers who buy yachts and jets they can't afford, will learn that a little money in a savings account is a lot better than a private jet they stress about making payments for.

    May 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  4. Jos

    I'm with the other posters, its kind of sleazy when the repo man takes a necessity, like a compact car that's the family's only car, but toys like this? Knock yourself out, yes, they're working for the greedy banks, but they weren't the only culprits in the collapse, they were just one of the players telling people to buy more than they can afford, some of whom like this planes owner followed their own advice.

    As someone who's had two repos in the last ten years, you'd think i'd be hostile to them, but in both cases i knew i was over extended and running on borrowed time (first one, a long time as i'd moved 2500 miles west). Yes, it sucked being repoed, but it was my fault and their right. Heck, the guy on the second repo was really cool, since i couldn't stay the execution (the finanace company only worked 9-5 M-F, it was 7PM on a Sunday, and they had to call off the repo to stop it), he brought the truck back so i could clean it out since he'd only gone 2 blocks (he'd called us before coming to get it, so we redialed him).

    May 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  5. Tony Rinaldi

    Very cool video. It is an interesting part of the economy that people dont really know much about. Great stuff.

    May 13, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  6. Chris

    WOW...they got lucky. If the owner called the Feds and FAA, said the aircraft was hijacked. Notification to local law enforcement would be nullified because its actually under Federal jurisdiction. Everyone on the plane would they be arrested and the repo status would be revoked. I think that guy should have probably took security precautions to prevent this, even airport security would have detained them.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  7. Bob

    Why do these stories get repeated in the media? Am I supposed to feel better about barely being able to pay for my families health insurance because some rich guy had his gulfstream repossessed?

    May 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  8. pbm

    Answer from "E" is correct. All records for the aircraft are compulsory. I imagine these guys know what they are doing however some news media outlets are trying to glorify this procedure as if anyone can take an aircraft with little difficulty. In addition most people don't realize that claiming your property on the ground is one thing. Removing it by air is another story. Flying within north american airspace without a properly licensed and named crew as on the current operators certificate requirements would be highly frowned upon by the D.H.S. also known as Dept. of Homeland Security and other agencies within the federal government. There is very little comparison to moving a car or truck to another location and moving an aircraft.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  9. Anthony

    a) odd to see so many people take pleasure in other peoples loss. jealousy i guess.

    b) why do people think repo men are thieves? the "owner" hasn't paid in full, so it's not theirs. same with a house and a foreclosure. if you don't pay the bill, it's not yours.

    May 12, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  10. anonymouswhoami

    Why would anyone be angry at the repo guys? The owners of these items are DEADBEATS. Agreeing to pay for something and then not paying is stealing. The posters who hate the repo guys/banks are the same idiots who bought homes with variable financing and then cry for taxpayer bailouts when their profit grab fails.

    May 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  11. Dave Higgins, Columbus OH

    Unless there's a legitimate mistake, how can the repossessed be mad at the repossesser? Pay your bills! If you can't afford something don't buy it!

    May 12, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
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