By Patrick Yost
A general sales manager and a salesman have both been arrested on fraud charges at a local car dealership.
According to Sgt. Scott Pitocchelli, Madison Police Department, Bryan Christopher “Chris” Richards, 42, Eatonton was arrested on Friday, November 11 and charged with 54 counts of theft by deception in relation to falsifying loan paperwork at the Louie Herron Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealership on Eatonton Road in Madison.
Salesman Deandre Rogers, 31, Covington was arrested on Wednesday, November 9 and charged with 24 counts of theft by deception in relation to the two month operation, Pitocchelli said.
Richards and Rogers are charged, in part, with taking down payments from customers with marginal or non–existent credit and them falsifying loan documents, including non–existent trade–ins to insure that the customer would be approved for a loan. Richards and Rogers allegedly would retain down payments.
“Rogers along with Richards were fraudulently using trade–ins that didn’t exist to facilitate new car deals,” Pittocchelli said.
Dealership owner Louie Herron said he was “shocked” when he discovered the allegations. Herron said the practice began to unravel when he demanded to see car titles for some of the trade-ins listed on loan sheets. Authorities allege that Richards and Rogers, and possibly others, acquired actual vehicle identification numbers on junked or wrecked cars and used them to circumnavigate loan computer programs. Herron said minutes after he spoke with Richards regarding the irregularities, both Richards and Rogers left the lot and never returned. Both men had worked at the dealership for less than a year.
“They were preying on customers in great need of a vehicle,” Pittocchelli said.
“In more than 20 years in the car business I’ve never been involved in anything like this,” Herron said.
Pittocchelli said not only are the customers with the fraudulent loans affected by the operation, but also the dealership has been defrauded. Pittocchelli estimated that Rogers defrauded customers and the dealership out of more than $100,000 and Richards more than $200,000.
He said authorities have not been able to place a value on the cash deposits customers gave either man. The cash deposits involved in the scheme were not recorded through a dealership receipt, he said.
Despite the arrests and allegations, Herron said customers personal and credit information was not compromised. He also said he was currently working with credit facilities to resolve the situation and that the experience had left him at a loss.
“The good Lord does everything for a reason. I just don’t know what the reason is yet,” he said. “I look forward to getting through this.”
Pittocchelli said authorities suspect more people were involved in the scheme and he said further arrests are “imminent.”