The president, compliance officer and comptroller of a chain of Oklahoma car dealerships have been indicted by a federal grand jury on wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and forgery charges. Initial reports do not indicate whether the 28-year-old, 61-year-old and 35-year-old are still employed by the dealer group. They are all Cleveland County residents. The 25-count indictment was unsealed on Sept. 16 and announced by the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Western District of Oklahoma on Sept. 17.

Fraudulent auto loan applications

The charges are linked to an alleged scheme to defraud lenders by submitting auto loan applications that contained false information about the amount of cash the borrowers were putting down and the vehicles they were trading in. U.S. attorneys say that they have identified at least 476 loans that lenders approved based on misrepresented cash down payments and about 636 loans that were submitted and approved with false trade-in information. According to court papers, the indicted individuals bribed at least one loan officer and forged signatures on several finance contracts. The identity theft charges are linked to the allegedly forged signatures.

Targeted advertising

The dealerships the individuals worked for sold Kia, Mitsubishi and Yamaha vehicles. The allegedly fraudulent loan applications were submitted to lenders in 2014 and 2015. The dealer group is said to have used targeted advertising to attract customers who would not normally be approved for conventional car loans. The indicted individuals could be sent to federal prison for decades if they are convicted. Each of the wire fraud and conspiracy charges carry maximum custodial penalties of 20 years. The forgery charges carry possible 10-year prison sentences and each identity theft charge could add a further two years to the sentences handed down.

Cooperating with prosecutors is sometimes the best option

Federal prosecutors are, often, willing to make generous plea offers to avoid going to court even when the evidence gathered by law enforcement seems overwhelming. When their clients face long prison sentences and their chances of being acquitted by a jury are not good, experienced criminal defense attorneys could suggest that they think carefully before rejecting such offers.