Sixteen people have been arrested on a federal indictment charging 21 defendants involved in a multi-state car theft conspiracy. The conspiracy is alleged to have utilized several different schemes to steal and misappropriate vehicles, commit bank fraud in order to obtain vehicles and obtain insurance proceeds by staging accidents and filing false theft reports, the Claims Journal reported on May 1.
The indictment alleges that the defendants stole luxury vehicles, SUVs and pickups from individuals and automobile dealerships in the Eastern District of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, which they transported to the Eastern District of Missouri. They disabled any tracking systems, like OnStar, on the stolen vehicles so that they couldn’t be traced by law enforcement.
In addition, it is charged that the defendants themselves, or “straw” purchasers, made false statements on loan applications and submitted fraudulent earnings statements in support to obtain loans to purchase typically high-end vehicles. The defendants used and then sold or disposed of the vehicles, while the loan defaulted, either immediately or after a short payment history.
According to the indictment, the defendants also practiced fraud related to the titling of vehicles, obtaining by false statements apparently legitimate ownership to vehicles they had stolen from individuals. On many occasions, the defendants falsely claimed to have done repair work which wasn’t actually performed on vehicles submitted to their businesses, inducing lien holders to pay the defendants money to avoid the issuance of a mechanics lien. Over 100 vehicles have been fully identified as being involved in the criminal activity, although investigators believe many more were actually involved.
Charges include conspiracy, bank fraud, mail fraud and receipt of stolen motor vehicle. If convicted, these charges carry penalties ranging from 5 to 30 years in prison and/or fines up to $1,000,000. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.