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Press Release

Former Norman Car Dealership Owner Chris Mayes to Serve Nearly 11 Years in Federal Prison for Wire Fraud Conspiracy, Forgery, Identity Theft, and Obstruction of Justice

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Oklahoma

Defendant Has Paid More Than $1,100,000 in Restitution, and Has Also Been Ordered to Forfeit more than $1,000,000

OKLAHOMA CITY – Today, BOBBY CHRIS MAYES, 51 of Norman, was sentenced to serve 130 months in federal prison for wire fraud, conspiracy, issuing forged securities, aggravated identity theft, and obstruction of justice, announced U. S. Attorney Robert J. Troester. Mayes’ co-defendants CHARLES GOOCH, 65 of Moore, and COURTNEY WELLS, 38 of Norman, will be sentenced in the coming weeks. 

“The extensive deception and manipulation employed by Mr. Mayes in this fraud scheme continued after his conviction in seeking to deceive and manipulate his co-defendants and even the Court,” said U.S. Attorney Troester.  “Today’s sentence demonstrates that schemes to defraud will eventually be revealed and severe consequences will be imposed. I commend the outstanding work done by both investigators and prosecutors in this case.” 

“Mayes and his co-defendants orchestrated an elaborate scheme to defraud car buyers and lenders out of millions of dollars by misrepresenting the type, source, and amount of borrower’s down payments and vehicle trade-ins. This long-running conspiracy resulted in significant losses to over 20 financial institutions, while hundreds of borrowers were saddled with debt they simply could not afford,” said FBI Oklahoma City Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Gray. “The sentence handed down today should serve as a stark reminder that this level of greed comes with an even bigger price to pay. The FBI recognizes the impact of fraudulent business practices on American consumers, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure predators like Mayes are brought to justice.”

Original Charges and Trial

On September 16, 2020, Mayes, Gooch, and Wells were indicted on 25 counts for using their positions as co-owners of the Big Red Dealerships (Big Red Sports/Imports, Big Red Kia, Norman Yamaha, Norman Mitsubishi, and Mayes Kia) to engage in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud in which they sought to obtain millions of dollars of loan proceeds. 

Mayes was the owner of the Big Red Dealerships, Gooch was the compliance officer, and Wells was the financial controller.  The government alleged each defendant made materially false statements and omissions to lenders about the type, source, and amount of borrowers’ down payments or vehicle trade-ins, and bribed at least one loan officer.

From November 2, 2021, through November 19, 2021, a jury trial was held in Oklahoma City. At trial, the jury heard testimony that the Big Red Dealerships used advertisements to target potential customers with poor credit and that Mayes, Gooch, and Wells then fraudulently induced lenders to approve loans for such customers by documenting that the customers provided cash down payments and/or trade-in vehicles when that was untrue.  Twelve different Big Red Dealership customers testified about their experiences buying cars at the Big Red Dealerships, along with several former employees and representatives of several lenders.  In some circumstances, the purported cash down payment was simply fictitious, and the Big Red Dealerships referred to those cash down payments as “King Cash” on internal documents.  The jury also heard testimony that in late 2014, one lender discovered these fake cash down payments, and Mayes emailed threats to the CEO of that lender in an effort to stop the lender from further investigating the Big Red Dealerships.

Evidence at trial also showed that from February 2015 until late 2017, the Big Red Dealerships continued to document fictitious cash down payments for lenders.  During that time period, for hundreds of customers, the down payment was based on items that were allegedly sold to Norman Pawn & Gun, a pawn shop owned by Gooch and located in a building owned by Mayes, although it was never open for business and never had any employees.  After loan proceeds were received from lenders, Big Red Dealership employees generated checks to the customers for the pawned items, forged the customers’ signatures on the checks, deposited the checks in Big Red Dealership accounts, and later fully reimbursed Norman Pawn & Gun for the purported down payments. 

The jury also heard that the Big Red Dealerships falsely documented vehicle trade-ins for lenders to approve loans.  On hundreds of other occasions, the trade-in vehicle was never provided to the Big Red Dealerships and a separate transaction was documented—unbeknownst to the lender—in which the trade-in vehicle was resold to the customer for a dollar.  Finally, the jury heard testimony that at least one lender approved questionable loans—for up to two to three times’ the value of vehicles being purchased—after a Big Red Dealership manager gave cash bribes to a loan officer and the Big Red Dealerships provided fake invoices to justify the inflated prices.

On November 19, 2021, the jury convicted all three defendants of conspiring to commit wire fraud, convicted Mayes and Gooch with 12 counts of wire fraud based on false information sent to lenders for 12 specific customers, and convicted Wells of six of those counts of wire fraud. 

Post-Trial Flight to Mexico by Wells, Obstruction of Justice by Mayes, and New Charges

Following the trial and while awaiting sentencing in May of 2022, Wells and her boyfriend, Brandon Landers, fled to Mexico to avoid incarceration.  Following a manhunt for the two fugitives they were captured in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico in October of 2022 and were returned to the United States. 

On February 17, 2023, Mayes was indicted and charged with three counts of tampering with official proceedings.  The government alleged Mayes orchestrated and helped to secure the unavailability of Wells in the proceeding, fabricated e-mails and other evidence in an effort to secure a new trial in that prior case, and sent an anonymous e-mail to the Court as part of his effort to obtain a new trial. 

On June 23, 2023, Mayes pled guilty to two counts of tampering with official proceedings. At the plea hearing, Mayes admitted he had helped to convince co-defendant Wells to flee to Mexico while they were awaiting sentencing and that he provided financial support for her flight. 

Based on these new allegations, Mayes was ordered to be detained pending sentencing.

Landers pled guilty on December 6, 2022, to conspiring to tamper with official proceedings based on his involvement in helping Wells flee to Mexico.  He is awaiting sentencing.  

Sentencing Hearing Today

At sentencing hearings today, testimony and evidence were presented regarding Mayes’ efforts to assist Wells’ flight to Mexico, falsified evidence presented to the court, and threats to kill a witness who testified at his trial. Defendants Wells and Gooch cooperated with the government and testified against Mayes and will be sentenced in the coming weeks.

At the sentencing hearing today, U. S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot sentenced Mayes to serve 130 months in federal prison on his fraud-related counts and 65 months in federal prison for his obstruction-related counts, to run concurrently.  Mayes had already paid $1,160,825.72 in restitution.  Mayes was also ordered to forfeit profits from the scheme in the amount of $1,018,322.17. 

In announcing the sentence, Judge Friot noted the aggravating factors surrounding the lengthy underlying fraud scheme, but particularly emphasized the schemes to defraud the Court and the Government as part of his obstruction of justice following the trial.  

Investigation and Prosecution Team

This case is the result of an investigation by FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Snyder and Jacqueline Hutzell prosecuted the case.

Reference is made to public record for more information.

Updated November 6, 2023