Not long after getting a judge to sentence a Wisconsin man in connection with a Ponzi scheme fueled by luxury vehicles, officials announced details involving seven defendants for their roles in a bank fraud conspiracy they described as “conversions” and connected with more than 80 fraudulently obtained auto loans to create $1.7 million in bank and credit union losses.
The Justice Department said Michael Miller and Melvin Goode Wentt have been sentenced while four other co-defendants previously pled guilty. One defendant is awaiting extradition from the United Kingdom, according to a news release.
“These defendants’ ‘creative financing’ company specialized in ‘auto loan conversions,’ which was simply fraud,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said. “This scam was designed to trick lenders, which in this case were mostly credit unions, into granting loans for sham car sales.
“While the businesses in their scheme may have been make-believe, the federal sentences they received are very real,” Pak continued.
According to Pak, the charges and other information presented in court, the defendants and their co-conspirators started the fraud scheme by incorporating businesses that, by name, appeared to be dealerships but, in fact, were just shell corporations.
Pak noted these fake companies had names like Premier Luxury Motors, Platinum Motors Auto Sales, and 5-Star Motorsports, but they had no employees, no cars, no car lots, and no dealership licenses.
After establishing the fake companies, the Justice Department said the conspirators recruited individuals to apply for auto financing with banks and credit unions. The applicants would claim that they were purchasing a vehicle from one of the fake companies and would supplement their applications with fake vehicle purchase orders created by the conspirators.
Officials recapped the scheme spanned approximately four years. Over that time, the conspirators sought more than 80 auto loans, totaling approximately $2.7 million in attempted fraud, and actually obtained about $1.7 million.
A jury convicted Miller and Goode Wentt of conspiracy and bank fraud on May 14. The defendants, in this case, received the following sentences: