Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Murder of a Car Salesman

The car business is slow everywhere but Damn...

Dealerships charged with stealing identities to help drug dealers and gang members buy expensive cars:

Victory Toyota and a used car operation on Long Island implicated in multipronged investigation all started by the murder of a car salesman at Universal Auto World

The investigation got its start in January of 2007 when salesman Colin Thomas was found shot in the back outside of Universal in Lawrence, New York

As the local police investigated the murder, they started pulling on threads of evidence that ultimately uncovered a large-scale scheme of fraudulent financial dealings, identity theft for the purpose of hiding the true identity of the purchasers of high-end vehicles, the use of “straw buyers” for the same purpose, and ultimately the padding of car purchase finance agreements to cover unordered and unwanted extended warranties and anti-theft equipment.

Most of the allegations appear to be directed in or through Universal Auto World according to the account in the Long Island newspaper Newsday. And while the article does not fully explain if any official business relationship exists between Victory and Universal, apparently in the process of investigating the murder, identity theft and use of straw buyers at Universal, authorities also discovered alleged improper sales tactics being employed at Victory Toyota.

It all got started in January of 2007 when the body of Colin Thomas was found dead of an apparent gun shot to the back outside of Universal Auto World - a used car business in close proximity to Victory Toyota.

The investigators reportedly discovered elaborate schemes to use stolen identities to mask the true identity of the purchasers of high-end vehicles. Four instances of stolen identities were reported, including one 75-year-old local woman. Her I.D. was used to purchase over $250K worth of vehicles including a Maserati valued at $100K. The stolen I.D.s were used to complete the sale of the vehicles to “known” drug dealers and other criminals, according to another account in the New York Daily News. Those with criminal reputations seek ways to stay below the radar of local law enforcement. Owning their vehicles in the names of others is one way to achieve this result.

Police also uncovered the use of “straw buyers.” In these cases, individuals were paid to allow their names to be used on the purchase and vehicle title and registration documents.

Other than being located close by, there was no link indicated between Universal and Victory Toyota. However, in the list of offenses uncovered by their investigation, police included charges that some employees of Victory Toyota had used illegal practices to pad car buyer’s orders with extended warranties and anti-theft systems. Dennis Cirillo, the operations manager of Victory Toyota, and brother of the owner, said that the dealership along with their customers were all victims of the three dealership employees arrested.

The three Victory Toyota employees were charged with 25 instances of filing false financial information, adjusting loan rates, stealing of cash deposits or the adding of unordered aftermarket items was used to inflate commissions.

The dealership is working with the car buyers to either buy back the vehicles or have their finance agreements adjusted to the proper amounts.

Reminds me of the movie Fargo.


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