Broward County residents charged with auto fraud also known as car-selling scam
September 8, 2012|By Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel
Nine South Florida residents — including a Fort Lauderdale Beach police officer — were arrested this week after a yearlong investigation into auto fraud that cost Fort Lauderdale-area businesses nearly a half-million dollars, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Friday.
One Boca Raton suspect, Shannon A. Reid, 56, remained at large, police said.
Investigators allege a scheme that defrauded auto dealers and financial institutions by providing false credit information and bills-of-sale to obtain loans that were not repaid. The group included a clerk in a private tag agency and used at least three Fort Lauderdale-area auto dealerships, according to the criminal complaint.
FDLE investigator Victor Johnson said the people charged allegedly were “straw buyers,” buying and leasing cars by using other people’s credit information to inflate car loans.
“In some cases the vehicles were shipped out of the country, so there was no way to repossess them once the lenders realized they were out of the money,” Johnson said.
Johnson said several financial institutions and legitimate car dealerships are victims in the alleged scheme of auto fraud, with losses of $500,000 or more.
Charges filed against the suspects include racketeering, conspiracy, unlawful subleasing of motor vehicles, communications fraud, title fraud and false statements.
Broward County residents arrested and charged were Todd Javon Smith Jr., 29, of Pembroke Pines; Shanovia Maria Smith, 26, of Pembroke Pines; Nicholi O’Neil Smith, 37, of Miramar; Francis Elizabeth Hannan, 49, of Lauderhill; and James M. Paul, 35, of Sunrise.
In Fort Lauderdale, residents charged were Tomas Manrique, 51, and Dennis Esther Matos Torres, 42. Alexandra Olivera, 25, of Hialeah, an employee of a private auto tag office, was arrested on charges including racketeering and title fraud.
George Robert Navarro, 26, a Fort Lauderdale Beach police officer, was charged with racketeering, fraud and unlawful subleasing of motor vehicles, false statements and official misconduct. Navarro has been suspended by the police department.
Navarro’s attorney Michael Band said Navarro has had an “exemplary career” as a police officer and contends a friend he knew in middle school, serving a sentence for drug use, wrongly accused the officer.
“We dispute that he has done anything wrong,” Band said.
The case will be prosecuted by the Fort Lauderdale-Dade County State Attorney’s Office.
via South Florida residents charged in auto fraud – Sun Sentinel.
Read criminal law commentary…
Criminal Law Commentary by Broward Auto Fraud Lawyers
Broward Criminal Attorney William Moore refers to Chapter 817 of Florida statutes which cover different fraud crimes and their penalties. Fraud is a kind of theft, but it involves the element of deception and there is no form of physical violence involved.
“Fraud crimes have increased dramatically in Florida in the past few years, and law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have created several task forces to handle various types of fraud crimes.” –Broward Auto Fraud Attorney William Moore
The state legislature of Florida on the other hand has enacted new laws with tougher penalties to limit fraud crimes.
“The act of deception in fraud crimes can be committed by forgery, false solicitation, counterfeiting, deceit, or by using various forms of communication media.” –Broward County Criminal Defense Lawyers
According to Broward Criminal Lawyer Weick, obtaining a conviction of a person or entity for fraud the prosecution generally has to prove:
The accused misrepresented or provided false information, and the accused knew the information to be false or misleading
The victim believed the misrepresentation or false information to be true and acted on it
The victim incurred financial loss or injury because of acting on the false or misrepresented information
Broward County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jim Weick
Dollar Amounts & Degree of Felony
Since there are many different kinds of fraud, Florida legislature has enacted new statutes to consolidate and manage similar fraud crimes. A recent addition is the Florida Communications Fraud Act, which consolidates all crimes that use various forms of communication like Internet, phone, fax, or mail to defraud people. Florida Statute 817.034, deals with the Communications Fraud Act and defines organized fraud to be any scheme meant for defrauding and obtaining anything of financial value. When the defrauded property is valued at $50,000 or more, it is considered a first-degree felony offense punishable with a jail sentence of up to 30 years and up to $10,000 fine. -Jim Weick, Criminal Lawyer Broward County
by William Moore