Land Rover dealer Tom Watkins of Salt Lake City admits he should have listened to the voice of caution.
A customer phoned from Las Vegas in November 2000, wanting to lease a 2001 Range Rover with a sticker price of $76,796.
The customer also wanted to have someone else pick up the vehicle. The dealership checked the customer's credit report, which came up "all aces and straight flushes," Watkins said. It was unusual, the dealer said, but not unheard of, for a customer to shop from so far away.
Watkins, who owns Intermountain Inc. (Volkswagen-Land Rover-Isuzu-Hyundai), said he was reluctant to deliver a car to a third party. He should have trusted his instincts because the customer with the credit report turned out to be a con man who had allegedly provided someone else's name.
According to a federal indictment filed March 6, 2002, Steven Schwartz already had been convicted of investment fraud and other charges in New York, Nevada and New Jersey, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Parella in Las Vegas. Out on bail, Schwartz had skipped his sentencing hearing and fled. In his absence, Schwartz was sentenced to 146 months in prison, Parella said.
Schwartz was on the run when he allegedly set up the phony sale in Salt Lake City, plus similar scams at dealerships in St. George, Utah; Anaheim, Calif.; and Egg Harbor Township, N.J, the prosecutor said. Besides the Range Rover, Schwartz is charged with arranging to buy or lease a Mitsubishi Montero Sport, a Mercedes SLK320, a Mercedes SL600 and a Jaguar XK8.
Schwartz was arrested in December 2000 and is in custody, Parella said. The case is pending.
In the Range Rover case, a salesman from the Intermountain dealership drove the truck to Las Vegas to deliver it, only to find the customer unavailable, Watkins said. Over the phone, the customer asked the salesman to hand over the vehicle to his accountant, who would sign the paperwork. Despite the glitches, the delivery was made.
Schwartz then allegedly sold the Range Rover to someone in California, and when the Utah dealership tried to recover it, that person sued the dealership. That case also is pending, Watkins said.
Schwartz was found when the man he allegedly impersonated tried to refinance a mortgage and discovered he had 11 car loans on his credit report, Parella said. Schwartz was arrested picking up mail at an address he had given as a billing address.