Conspirator Pleads Guilty on Eve of Trial in Car Dealership Fraud Scheme
Used Stolen Identities to Purchase Expensive Cars
Greenbelt, Maryland – Juan Carlos Willis, age 41, of Hyattsville, Maryland pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to use the stolen identity of others to purchase expensive cars. Willis was scheduled to begin trial tomorrow.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Michalko of the United States Secret Service B Washington Field Office; Postal Inspector in Charge Gary R. Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; and Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department.
According to his plea agreement, Willis, Flinton Newton and others obtained the identity information of credit-worthy individuals, created false identity documents in the names of those individuals, then posed as those individuals at automotive dealerships in order to apply for vehicle financing. Willis and his coconspirators filled out credit applications and obtained loans in the names of the identity theft victims to purchase, or attempt to purchase, expensive cars from dealers in Maryland and Virginia. They intended to either use the luxury vehicles themselves, or rent or sell them.
On July 19, 2012, Willis and Newton went to Capitol Cadillac in Greenbelt. Newton posed as another person whose identity he had fraudulently obtained, to apply for $80,663 in financing to purchase a 2013 Cadillac Escalade in the victim’s name. Willis used online access to an insurance policy written on a co-conspirator’s business to obtain proof of insurance in support of the vehicle purchase.
Later that evening, Willis and Newton drove to Mercedes-Benz of Silver Spring where Newton again posed as the victim. The men attempted to purchase a 2012 Mercedes-Benz CL550 and a 2009 Mercedez-Benz S550 for a total of $120,056. They filled out credit applications to finance the entire purchase price, again using the victim’s identity and credit. Willis again presented the auto insurance policy in a co-conspirator’s business name in support of the vehicle purchases.
The dealership manager saw that the victim’s credit had just been used to purchase the Cadillac Escalade, so he notified Montgomery County Police, who responded and arrested Willis and Newton. Willis acknowledged that his role in the scheme was to locate vehicles and provide insurance information.
The total attempted loss as a result of the fraudulent scheme was between $400,000 and $1 million.
Willis faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the conspiracy and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte scheduled sentencing for April 8, 2015, at 9:30 a.m.
Flinton Newton, age 34, of Bartlett, Tennessee previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 42 months in prison in connection with the scheme.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Montgomery County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Adam K. Ake and Special Assistant United States Attorney James Pearce, who are prosecuting the case.