A used car dealer has been jailed for six years after conning Toyota out of millions.
James Pinson, 46, who owned Big Blue Motor Sales in Kentucky, was convicted 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.
The charges all related to a scam he pulled involving Toyota’s customer support programme to buy back rusty trucks at 150 per cent of their value.
Dealers were excluded from the programme but Toyota ended up being defrauded out of $4.3m (circa £3.3m) by Pinson.
Evidence at his trial revealed that he bought the trucks at wholesale prices at auction.
He then got hundreds of copies of Kentucky and West Virginia residents’ driver’s licences, fraudulently put the trucks in their names, then fraudulently got Toyota to rebuy the trucks at 150 per cent over their retail value.
The manufacturer issued 350 cheques in the names of the false owners and Pinson, of Wayne County, forged signatures on all of them and deposited the money in his bank account.
He then used the money to buy more Toyota trucks at wholesale to run through the scheme.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of West Virginia said Pinson also used some of the money to buy a beach house in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.
He paid cash bribes to a Frank Russo and Stanley Clark, who worked at a Toyota dealership in Kanawha County, West Virginia, to help run the massive fraud.
Russo, 69, of North Carolina was a service manager there and Clark was an employee.
Russo earlier pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was jailed for two years. He admitted taking part in the fraud scheme by ensuring that vehicles brought to the dealership qualified for the extended warranty extension programme.
He also said he sent false ownership information to Toyota by electronic wire, and admitted receiving bribes or kickbacks from Big Blue Motor Sales for taking part in the fraud.
Clark, who processed the buyback paperwork, was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Pinson and Russo have also been ordered to pay up to $4.3m restitution to Toyota.