Marwan Abdellatif, a former Douglas Nissan desk manager accused of stealing the identities of unsuspecting customers and defrauding banks in the sale of used cars, remains a fugitive from justice.
But his whereabouts being unknown did not stop the Orange dealership's part owner and two other desk managers from being sentenced to jail time and probation today.
Part-owner Frank Ignacio Urbano pleaded guilty May 6 to felonies including 43 counts of forgery, 31 counts of grand theft and two counts of conspiracy. The Anaheim 57-year-old was was sentenced to a year in jail. Ten years in state prison will be suspended if he successfully completes five years probation.
Desk managers Luz Belem Corral, 29, of Costa Mesa, and Kevin Allen DeRosier, 31, of Anaheim, also pleaded guilty in May to the same charges, with Corral copping to another felony count of perjury by declaration. DeRosier was sentenced today to 240 days in jail and five years probation, while Corral got a 360-day jail stretch to go with the five years of probation.
In April 2007, the Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) began investigating fraudulent activity at Douglas car dealerships and discovered that dating back to 2005 more than two dozen police reports had been filed with the Orange Police Department regarding Douglas Nissan at 1140 W. Katella Ave., Orange. More than 100 unfair business complaints had also been filed with the DMV and Better Business Bureau.
On July 9, 2007, the OCDA raided the dealership and seized two computers, electronic data from four additional computers, and approximately 350 boxes containing around 12,000 car transaction dealer jackets. Each dealer jacket contained several documents including contracts, credit reports, applications, warranty and insurance information, and other documentation relevant to the sale or lease of a vehicle.
The felony charges in the case stem from the worst 31 fraudulent transactions "representing a small percentage of the large volume of evidence," according to the OCDA. Translation: you'd be better off with a lemon from Toyota of Orange, even though radio listeners know those aren't sold there.
Urbano was a minority share owner and general manager of Douglas Nissan responsible for day-to-day operations at the time of the crimes. Corral, DeRosier, and Abdellatif were desk managers who supervised dealership sales staff, secured documentation and financing for vehicle sales, and signed off on all car sale deals. Each participated in an elaborate conspiracy to sell used cars at prices above their value to drive up the cost of monthly payments by customers. False loan information was submitted to defraud lenders and customers, who unwittingly had unaffordable loans secured in their names.
All tolled, the foursome defrauded banks out of an estimated $911,500 in financing through the submission of the falsified records, according to the OCDA, which counted eight known banks and lending institutions among the ripped off. In fact, Bank of America stopped conducting business with Douglas Nissan in June 2007 because of the high number of fraudulent vehicle loan packages from the dealership.
Naturally, it being the American Way and all, Urbano, Corral, DeRosier and Abdellatif primarily targeted Spanish-speaking customers who did not have proper identification or understand the process of buying a vehicle, according to the OCDA.
"They obtained or created false identities and assigned the identities to customers without their knowledge in order to qualify for higher loans," reads a statement from the OCDA. "They created fake customer pay-stubs to support the falsified claim of higher income. The defendants encouraged victims to sign loan and purchase documents that had not been completed, and later filled in the documents with information that overstated the victims' loan payment abilities."
Sticking customers--many of whom in this case lost their cars--with higher loans, extra warranties and expensive add-on items than they can afford is known as "loan packing." But the fearsome foursome of Douglas Nissan also stuck it to non-customers by stealing identities so their credit could be used for the real purchasers of used cars. These unwitting car buyers had it stuck to them if the actual car possessor flaked out on their loan payments.
Corral got the extra felony county for using a fake social security number on her application for a sales license, which is required to sell cars.
The OCDA previously issued a $2 million arrest warrant for Abdellatif, a 49-year-old formerly of Lakewood and one time believed to be hiding out somewhere in Riverside County. He was charged Nov. 5, 2010, with one felony count of failing to appear in court to go along with his 43 felony counts of forgery, 31 felony counts of grand theft, one felony count of conspiracy to defraud another of property, and one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime. If captured and convicted, he could get up to 38 years in state prison.
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Anyone who knows where Abdellatif is can call their local police department's non-emergency number or Supervising District Attorney Investigator Eric Akerlind at 714.347.8691.
In the meantime, I wouldn't buy anything from him.