ATLANTA — Michael Miller and Melvin Goode Wentt have been sentenced for their roles in a bank fraud conspiracy involving seven defendants, over 80 fraudulently obtained auto loans, and $1.7 million in bank and credit union losses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.
Four other co-defendants previously pled guilty. One defendant is awaiting extradition from the United Kingdom.
“These defendants’ ‘creative financing’ company specialized in ‘auto loan conversions,’ which was simply fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “This scam was designed to trick lenders, which in this case were mostly credit unions, into granting loans for sham car sales. While the businesses in their scheme may have been make-believe, the federal sentences they received are very real.”
Pak said the defendants and their co-conspirators started the fraud scheme by incorporating businesses that, by name, appeared to be auto dealerships but, in fact, were just shell corporations. These fake companies had names like “Premier Luxury Motors,” “Platinum Motors Auto Sales,” and “5-Star Motorsports,” but they had no employees, no cars, no car lots, and no dealership licenses.
After establishing the fake companies, the conspirators recruited individuals to apply for car loans with banks and credit unions. The loan applicants would claim that they were purchasing a car from one of the fake companies and would supplement their applications with fake vehicle purchase orders created by the conspirators.
If a loan check was issued to the loan applicant, the proceeds would be deposited into financial accounts opened by the conspirators and held in the names of the fake companies. The conspirators and the loan applicants would then split the money and never repay the loan — and there were no cars to repossess.
The scheme spanned approximately four years. Over that time, the conspirators sought over 80 auto loans, totaling approximately $2.7 million in attempted fraud, successfully obtaining about $1.7 million.
Miller and Goode Wennt will serve 24 and 34 months, respectively, plus three to five years of supervised release; there is no parole in the federal prison system. Other co-defendants earned sentences ranging from three years’ probation to four years and nine months in prison and restitution collectively totaling more than $3.1 million.