Two Defendants Charged in a Rent-to-own Vehicle Fraud Scheme

Secret Service Seeking Additional Victims

March 14, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - A criminal complaint was filed on March 10, 2011 charging Lamondes Williams, age 51, of Baltimore, Maryland and Erica Brown, age 28, of Laurel, Maryland, with wire fraud in connection with a scheme in which the defendants are alleged to have falsely promised individuals with poor credit assistance in obtaining a vehicle which they could rent-to-own. Both defendants had their initial appearances in federal court in Baltimore. Brown has been released on conditions. Williams had his detention hearing at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon and was detained.

The criminal complaint was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Barbara Golden of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office.

According to the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, Williams was running a scheme where he advertised a rent-to-own program for vehicles. Brown allegedly worked for Williams and promoted his scheme. Williams and Brown allegedly informed their victims that if they paid a cash fee to enter the program and then a cash payment each month, they would be able to drive a vehicle which would ultimately belong to them. After the victims paid the fees, Williams or Brown allegedly took them to car rental agencies where they negotiated the contract with the car rental agency on behalf of the victim, then had the victim sign the paperwork. Most of the time, Williams rented the car for only a short period of time, such as two days, without telling the victim. The victim then continued to make payments to Williams. In the meantime, because the victim did not return the car when it was due back at the rental agency, the agency contacted the victim and instructed the victim to return the car. When the victim complained to Williams or Brown that they had to return the vehicle, Williams refused to return the fees paid by the victim.

Williams and Brown face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud.

Anyone believing that they may have been a victim of this scheme is asked to call the U.S. Secret Service at 443-263-1000.

A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the Secret Service for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Mara Zusman Greenberg and Paul E. Budlow, who are prosecuting the case.

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