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A Washington State auto dealer was ordered to pay the state $240,000 after the business’ president pled guilty to stealing retail sales tax intended for public services.
Khaled E. Saad, president of American Auto & Body, LLC, of Mount Vernon, entered a guilty plea on behalf of the corporation to first-degree theft. Saad had been accused of collecting retail sales tax and not turning it over to the state.
The court ordered the corporation to pay $240,000 to the Washington State Department of Revenue and $500 for a victim penalty assessment. The Revenue Department has received that money from the corporation.
The $240,000 judgment included assessed sales taxes the corporation did not remit, and penalties and interest.
Based on a referral from the state attorney general’s office, auditors for the Washington State Department of Revenue reviewed American Auto & Body’s records spanning March 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2015. During that time, records show Saad was vastly underreporting his corporation’s income and had not remitted to the state at least $145,512 in retail sales tax.

Published in Crime

A used-car salesman has been charged with one count of grand larceny in the third degree for stealing funds from his former employer.
Richard Grassi worked at Mike Ceretta Auto Sales Inc. in New Rochelle, N.Y.  While he was employed there, one of his jobs was to purchase cars from other car dealerships.
Between Nov. 1, 2013 and April 1, 2015, Grassi stole funds from Ceretta by submitting false invoices that listed the vehicles purchased from other dealerships at lower prices than they actually were so that the defendant’s commission would be higher when the vehicles were sold.
As a result of this false invoice scheme, Grassi stole approximately $24,000.
The defendant pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.
He faces a maximum of seven years in state prison.
His next court date is Sept. 11.

Published in Crime
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 20:58

Hondas Become Harder to Steal

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released its annual Hot Wheels report, which identifies the 10 most stolen vehicles in the United States. The report examines vehicle theft data submitted by law enforcement to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and determines the vehicle make, model and model year most reported stolen in 2016.
While Honda Accords and Civics dominate this annual list, they are older, pre-smart-key production models. Since the introduction of smart keys and other anti-theft technology, Honda thefts have seen major declines. As the list of top 25 most stolen 2016 model year vehicles shows, there were only 493 thefts of Accords last year.

Published in Crime
Tuesday, 04 July 2017 23:05

Woman Writes Bad Checks to Four Dealers

A Louisiana woman  pleaded guilty to buying several cars with fraudulent checks.
Maria Spears, a/k/a Maria Baquedano, admitted to defrauding Gulf Coast Bank in connection with writing fraudulent checks and pleaded to bank larceny.
According to court documents, Spears opened a checking account at Gulf Coast, which was then closed in 2011 and contained no funds.
From June 2015 to March 2016, Spears wrote approximately $357,000 in bad checks. Each time a check was presented, the bank declined to release the funds as the account had been closed since 2011.
On Dec. 12, 2015, Spears purchased a 2016 Chevrolet Corvette from an unnamed dealer with a check for $80,390.29 from the closed account.
On March 5, 2016, she purchased a 2016 Nissan GTR from another dealer with a check for $130,675 from the closed account.
On March 21, 2016, Spears purchased a 2016 Cadillac Escalade Premium from a third dealer with a check for $97,590.75 from the closed account.
On March 26, 2016, Spears purchased a 2016 Nissan 370Z from a fourth dealer with a check for $44,000 from the closed account.
She also used a check from the closed account to purchase $5,000 worth of real estate.
Spears faces a possible maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt set sentencing for Oct 25, 2017.
Spears was on supervised release for another federal offense when she committed this crime. On Dec. 6, 2012, Spears was sentenced to serve 21 months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons for wire fraud. She was ordered to pay $176,267.96 in restitution and was placed on three years supervised release.

Published in Crime
Friday, 30 June 2017 01:00

Couple Sues Chase, Repo Providers

A Wisconsin couple has sued Chase Auto Finance and its third-party providers, alleging they were victims of the illegal taking of their car.
In the complaint, the defendants – Chase Auto Finance Corp., Tri-State Recovery, and Primeritus Financial Services – are charged with violating several provisions of the Wisconsin Consumer Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 
The suit states the defendants repossessed a vehicle belonging to Ron and Teresa Olstad. The couple claims it was completely paid for and they had a clear title in their hand. 
The Olstads allege that during their protest to the repossession, they even went with the repossession agents to a Chase Bank branch.  They contend the branch manager turned a blind eye to their paperwork and said their car could be taken.
After the suit was first filed in March, the defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration.
The defendants maintain that the now-complete contract between Chase and the Olstads requires that the dispute with all defendants proceed in private arbitration.

Published in Legal
Wednesday, 28 June 2017 01:07

Judge Ups Fine for Former Car Dealer

A former car dealer was ordered to pay more than double his original fines for not complying with the terms and conditions of a consent judgment he entered into with the local district attorney.
At the end of 2016, Justin Blevins and his company, Blevins Auto Group LLC of Wichita, Kansas, entered into an agreement with the Sedgwick County District Attorney to remedy over 20 used-car sales. The District Attorney alleged that Blevins failed to disclose to 21 consumers that he could not provide legal title for the car they purchased.
As part of the consent judgment Blevins waived any claim of ownership of the 21 vehicles and agreed to pay a fine, court costs, and investigative fees by Jan. 27.
A judge increased the fine June 23 after Blevins failed to make the court ordered payments.

Published in Crime

A Wisconsin auto dealership has agreed to change its business practices to keep its license.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation suspended the motor vehicle dealer license for Moe Motors LLC, 1701 Rawson Avenue in South Milwaukee, for three weeks for improperly replacing odometers.
Moe Motors acknowledged it improperly replaced odometer clusters on 11 vehicles it sold, causing the odometer to register a lower mileage. The dealership agreed to provide restitution to individuals who purchased the vehicles with replaced odometers.
While suspended, the dealership could not engage in any activity that requires a motor vehicle dealer license.
Any future violations could result in the loss of the dealership’s motor vehicle dealer license. Moe Motors LLC agreed to allow agents or employees of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to inspect all business records necessary to verify compliance.

Published in Dealers
Thursday, 03 November 2016 20:51

State Arrests Dealer for Not Paying Taxes

Roberto A. Martinez, operator of RDM Automotive Group, Inc., has been arrested on charges for the theft of more than $922,000 in sales tax he collected from customers, but failed to send to the state, according to the Florida Department of Revenue.
 Martinez was arrested on a felony charge relating to theft of state funds. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs.
His two stores, RDM Auto Sales and RDM Luxury Imports, are now closed. They were located at 4010 South State Road 7 in Miramar.
 According to Department of Revenue investigators, Martinez collected sales tax from customers at his car lot. However, during various periods from August 2011 through May 2014, he failed to send to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected from his customers. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection.

Published in Crime
Thursday, 29 September 2016 17:32

State Claims Dealer Forged Documents

A southeast Michigan auto dealer faces seven felony charges for allegedly forging federal import documents after Secretary of State staff became suspicious of the documents he presented.
Auto dealer David S. Cheslin has been arraigned on two counts of uttering and publishing and five counts of intent to pass false title.
Cheslin, the owner of Cheslin Inc., 3080 Orchard Lake Road in Keego Harbor, is accused of forging more than 300 U.S. Customs and Border Protection documents and a sheriff deputy’s signature to bypass the required Customs process for importing vehicles.
Secretary of State and State Police investigators uncovered the auto dealer’s alleged scheme in February when suspected fraudulent title applications were submitted to the secretary of state’s office. Customs import specialists later confirmed the documents to be fraudulent.
State Police investigators subsequently executed search warrants in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in May. Shortly thereafter, Cheslin’s dealership license was summarily suspended by the secretary of state’s office.
Each of the two uttering and publishing charges Cheslin faces is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and each of the five intent to pass false title charges is punishable by up to 10 years.

Published in Crime
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 12:27

Two Fugitives

This past weekend I watched two true crime TV shows about the car business. One was about a fugitive turned car salesman and the other was about a car dealer turned fugitive.

New Jersey dealer Bobby Khan was the subject of an episode of CNBC's "American Greed." Khan ran a high-end consignment lot in New Jersey, one that ended with buyers without titles and sellers without money. I'm not sure if Khan set out to run a scam, but operating in New Jersey sure made it easier to do so.

The other show was "I (Almost) Got Away With It," featuring the story of Brian McCollum. McCollum spent his twenties either in prison, doing drugs, or committing the B&Es that paid for the drugs and landed him in prison. In his 30s, he started selling cars. He did well, but his issues with substances landed him back behind bars. He was paroled, went back to selling cars, but continued to struggle with alcohol and wound up a fugitive as a result. Still, he sold cars rather than steal, even when he was on the run. Its an interesting story of car sales as redemption and there are plenty of other details for those in the business to enjoy. For example,. there is a great scene in which Mccollum buys a car at auction just to escape the police. 

If you get a chance, check out both shows.

Published in Ted Craig
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