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Press Release

Two Men Sentenced to Prison for Roles in $4.3 Million Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – James Pinson, 46, of Wayne County, and Frank Russo, 69, of North Carolina, were sentenced today for their roles in defrauding Toyota of over $4.3 million in connection with a Toyota Customer Support Program.  Both men also will be required to pay restitution of up to $4.3 million to Toyota.

Pinson was sentenced to six years in federal prison. A federal jury convicted Pinson in December 2021 of three counts of wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and two counts of conspiring to commit money laundering. Pinson was the owner of Big Blue Motor Sales, a Kentucky used car dealership.  Evidence at trial revealed that to carry out his scheme, Pinson bought Toyota trucks at wholesale prices at auction, obtained hundreds of copies of Kentucky and West Virginia residents’ driver’s licenses, fraudulently titled the trucks in the name of those residents, and fraudulently induced Toyota to repurchase the trucks at 150% of their retail value. Toyota issued 350 checks in the names of individual false owners between 2013 and 2015. Pinson forged signatures on all 350 checks and deposited them into his bank account. Pinson then used the money from this fraud scheme to buy more Toyota trucks at wholesale to run through the scheme. He also paid cash bribes to Frank Russo and Stanley Clark. Earlier this week, Clark was sentenced to one year and three months in prison. Pinson further used the criminally-derived money from the fraud scheme to purchase a beach house in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.

Russo was sentenced to two years in federal prison for wire fraud.  Russo pleaded guilty to the charge in July 2020. Russo was employed as service manager by a Toyota dealership in Kanawha County. Russo admitted that he participated in the fraud scheme by ensuring that vehicles brought to the Toyota dealership qualified for the extended warranty extension program. Russo admitted that he sent false ownership information to Toyota by electronic wire in furtherance of the scheme. Russo admitted that he received bribes or kickbacks from Big Blue Motor Sales for his participation in the scheme.

United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the West Virginia State Police and the West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner. 

United States District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin imposed the sentences. Assistant United States Attorneys Steve Loew and Andrew Tessman handled the prosecution.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 2:19-CR-00250 and 2:19-cr-00222.





Updated March 3, 2022