Conspirator Sentenced to Over Five Years in Prison in Car Dealership Fraud Scheme
Used Stolen Identities to Purchase Expensive Cars
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Juan Carlos Willis, age 41, of Hyattsville, Maryland late yesterday to 61 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for 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.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Special Agent in Charge James Murray of the United States Secret Service B Washington Field Office; Acting Postal Inspector in Charge David M. McGinnis 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, Kenneth Watford, 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 June 23, 2012, Willis, Watford and a coconspirator used the identity of another person to complete and submit a credit application for $77,450 in financing at BMW of Silver Spring, Maryland, to purchase a 2011 BMW 750. On July 26, 2012, Watford was arrested while driving the BMW in Bowie, Maryland. Inside the BMW were the victim’s credit reports from three credit bureaus.
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 Watford’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 Watford’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.
Flinton Newton, age 34, of Bartlett, Tennessee previously pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme and was sentenced to 42 months in prison.Following a six day trial, Kenneth Watford, age 55, of Bowie, was convicted by a federal jury on April 16, 2015 of conspiring to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, attempting to commit wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, possessing a firearm by a convicted felon, credit card fraud and two counts of attempted credit card fraud.Watford is scheduled to be sentenced on July 28, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.
Today’s announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established 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. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please 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 I. Pearce, who prosecuted the case.