A Sandy Springs man is one of two individuals who have been sentenced for their roles in a bank fraud conspiracy case, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Aug. 16.
Michael Miller, 58, of Sandy Springs, is one of seven defendants accused of concocting a scheme involving more than 80 fraudulently obtained auto loans totaling about $2.7 million in attempted fraud that resulted in $1.7 million in bank and credit union losses.
Miller and Melvin Goode Wentt were sentenced earlier this month, four other co-defendants previously pled guilty and a seventh defendant is awaiting extradition from the United Kingdom.
“These defendants’ creative financing company specialized in auto loan conversions, which was simply fraud,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a news release. “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.”
According to Pak, the charges and other information presented in court included: 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 pay back the lender. Because there were no cars to repossess, the lender would be left with nothing. The scheme spanned about four years.
A jury convicted Miller and Goode Wentt of conspiracy and bank fraud May 14. The defendants in this case received the following sentences:
Miller was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $316,826 in restitution.
Goode Wentt aka Melvin Goode, 59, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to two years, 10 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $765,603.25 in restitution.
Giovanni “Riq” Cartier, 55 of Austell, was sentenced to four years, nine months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution. Cartier pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy April 18, 2018.
Rhaine Yamabushi aka Marchelle Mathis, 45, of Florence, South Carolina, was sentenced to one year and a day in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $164,995 in restitution. Yamabushi pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy Dec. 6.
Vladimir Marcellus, 31, of Ventura, California, was sentenced to three years’ probation, with 240 days of home detention, and ordered to pay $164,995 in restitution. Marcellus pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy April 27, 2018.
Kirk Evans, 46, of Ellenwood, was sentenced to three years’ probation, with six months of home detention, and ordered to pay $47,799 in restitution. Evans pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy April 18, 2018.
“Bank fraud is not a victimless crime and these defendants will now have time to reflect on their choice to obtain these fraudulent auto loans,” Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta field office, said in a news release. “The FBI treats these types of financial crimes very seriously and warns anyone considering this type of criminal activity to also consider the fate these defendants face as a deterrent.”
In a news release, David M. McGinnis, U.S. postal inspector in charge of the Charlotte division, said, “The defendants carried out a scheme to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in loans to enrich themselves. The sentences handed down in this case will hold these individuals accountable for their criminal misconduct. Postal Inspectors will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to detect, investigate and mitigate the effects of these types of financial crimes.”