Big Red Dealership schemes unravel in court

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On November 19, a federal jury convicted former Big Red Dealership executives Bobby Chris Mayes, Charles Gooch and Courtney Wells on multiple counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, issuing fake titles and usurpation identity for using falsified deposits and non-existent exchanges. to get lenders to approve auto loans, according to court documents. (Photo by Colin Lloyd via Unsplash)

Bad credit, no credit – come to Big Red Dealerships in Norman and they’ll get you approved, the dealer’s radio commercials proclaimed, claiming the dealership had relationships with the most forgiving lenders. But in fact, dealership executives had devised a number of schemes to trick lenders into approving loans with falsified down payments and non-existent exchanges.

On November 19, a federal jury convicted Bobby Chris Mayes, former chief executive officer; Charles Gooch, former vice president and chief compliance officer; and Courtney Wells, former Big Red Dealerships comptroller, with multiple counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, issuing fake titles and aggravated identity theft, said Robert J. Troester, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Mayes, Gooch, and Wells all co-owned the Big Red dealerships, which included Big Red Sports / Imports, Big Red Kia, Norman Yamaha, Norman Mitsubishi, and Mayes Kia. Executives also had a stake in Trident Warranty Advisors, and Gooch was the sole owner, chairman and CEO of Norman Pawn & Gun, with Wells managing the pawnshop’s accounting system.

Court documents show that between 2012 and 2019, the three fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in auto loans from lenders by presenting false information showing that customers made a substantial down payment or traded in a valuable vehicle.

From 2012 to 2014, dealership staff were instructed to label cash down payments as “King Cash” on documents submitted to lenders, which falsely represented that the customer had made the full down payment while ‘in fact he had provided a smaller down payment or not at all. Customers were coached “to repeat the lie that they made the down payment as directed” if contacted by the lender, court records show.

At the end of 2014, Mayes asked employees to “no longer offer ‘special financing’ with King Cash.” A few months later, in February 2015, Norman Pawn & Gun was born.

Dealership managers and salespeople were told that customers who did not have money for a down payment could instead pledge items with Norman Pawn & Gun. Gooch, the manager or the seller usually wrote an appraisal value of the items that was the amount needed to meet the lender’s cash deposit requirement, prosecutors alleged.

Once the loan was secured, Gooch generated a check from Norman Pawn & Gun to the car buyer for the amount on the pawnshop, then forged the customer’s signature on the back of the check to endorse it to the dealership.

The pawnshop was never open for business and never had employees, according to court records, but for at least 519 clients a down payment was allegedly based on a pawned item provided to Norman Pawn & Gun.

Dealer executives paid about $ 30,000 in cash to bribe a loan officer at a local financial institution to approve loans to clients of Big Red Dealerships, court records show.

“Customers have been told they can trade in any vehicle, whether or not it is operational and whether or not it belongs to the customer,” court records say. “All the Big Red dealership needed was a vehicle identification number. “

Dealership employees would document that the vehicle had been traded in and place a value on it, “often far greater than any legitimate value and again not coincidentally in the exact amount required by the lender as a down payment or trade-in,” the records show. court. . Dealer employees would also prepare a corresponding invoice – which was not provided to lenders – showing that the customer had repurchased the vehicle for $ 1.

On at least 542 occasions, the vehicle was never supplied to Big Red dealers and a separate transaction was documented in which the trade-in vehicle was sold back to the customer for a dollar, court records show.

The jury found the three accused guilty of conspiring to commit wire fraud. Mayes and Gooch were convicted of 12 counts of wire fraud based on false information sent to lenders for 12 specific clients, and Wells was convicted of six of these counts of wire fraud. For each conviction, each accused faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000.

The jury found the three defendants guilty of six counts of counterfeiting securities based on Norman Pawn & Gun checks forged by Big Red Dealership employees. For each count, each accused faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000.

The jury convicted the three defendants of six counts of aggravated identity theft for using the signatures of six clients without legal authorization. Each count carries a mandatory jail term of two years consecutive to any other jail term and a fine of $ 250,000.

Sentencing will take place in approximately 90 days.

This case is the result of an investigation by the FBI field office in Oklahoma City.

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