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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Albuquerque man sentenced to more than 5 years in prison for auto loan fraud schemes exceeding $1.5 million

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, announced today that Rick Benavidez, 47, of Albuquerque, was sentenced in federal court to five years and three months in prison for leading and organizing two auto loan fraud schemes involving a total intended loss of more than $1.5 million.  

Benavidez pleaded guilty on April 29 to two counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of making fraudulent returns, statements or other documents. In his plea agreement, Benavidez admitted to conspiring with his co-defendant, Damian Maron, 41, of Albuquerque, to carry out a loan fraud scheme against federally insured credit unions in Bernalillo County. Benavidez and Maron convinced lower-level members of the conspiracy to apply for loans totaling $359,662.97. Benavidez gave the loan applicants false pay stubs overstating their income to improve the likelihood of loan approval. Benavidez, Maron and their co-conspirators did not actually use the proceeds of the loans to buy vehicles. Instead, they arranged for the lenders to disburse the loan funds to a fictitious auto dealership. The co-conspirators then divided the proceeds of the fraud and used the money for their own personal benefit. 

Benavidez also admitted to taking part in a separate auto loan fraud scheme involving an intended loss of $1,154,493.42, of which $999,993.42 was actually disbursed by financial institutions. Benavidez agreed to make restitution to the victims of his crimes in an amount to be determined at a separate hearing. Benavidez must complete a five-year term of supervised release following his imprisonment. 

In his plea agreement, Benavidez also admitted to submitting a false document to the Internal Revenue Service while his auto loan fraud case was pending. This false document purported to designate United States District Judge William P. Johnson as Benavidez’s legal fiduciary. Benavidez knew this designation was false when he submitted the document.  

Maron previously pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 2.

The FBI Albuquerque Field Office and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated this case with assistance from the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Taylor F. Hartstein and Sean J. Sullivan are prosecuting the case.

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Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
22-187
Updated August 24, 2022