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Former Litchfield Car Salesman Charged with Fraud

July 2, 2008

Springfield, Ill. – A former salesman for a Litchfield, Illinois car dealership has been charged with wire fraud in a two-count indictment returned by the grand jury on July 1, 2008. The indictment alleges Max Wayne Watkins, 64, of Bethalto, Illinois, submitted customers’ checks that he knew were worthless to check approval companies as payment for vehicles he sold at the dealership on commission.

The indictment alleges that as part of the scheme, from August 7, 2006 to October 9, 2006, Watkins sold automobiles to customers who did not have the financial ability to pay for the vehicles. According to the indictment, the check companies guaranteed payment to the dealership, Victory Ford Lane, for any checks each approved. Watkins allegedly used various means to cause the check approval companies to approve worthless checks including submitting checks from closed accounts; newly opened accounts with inadequate funds; resubmitting checks previously disapproved; submitting checks at times of the day more favorable for check approval and changing the amounts written on the checks.

The indictment alleges that as part of the scheme, in August and September 2006, Watkins submitted worthless checks having an estimated total value of more than $766,487 to the two companies for approval. The loss by the two companies and Victory Ford Lane is estimated at over $266,458. The indictment alleges Watkins sought commission checks from Victory Ford Lane for the sale of vehicles which he knew had been paid in full or in part with worthless checks.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and the Litchfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Harris is prosecuting the case.

Watkins will be issued a summons for initial appearance in federal court in Springfield.

If convicted, each count of wire fraud carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison, fines of up to $250,000 and payment of restitution to victims of the offense.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

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