A high-volume Fiat Chrysler Automobiles salesman in suburban Detroit has been charged with defrauding the automaker out of $8.7 million by giving employee discounts on vehicles to customers who weren't eligible.
Apollon Nimo, 34, a salesman at Parkway Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, illegally used discount codes meant for family members of FCA employees in sales and leases to nonqualified buyers thousands of times from 2014 to the present, a federal investigator wrote in an affidavit filed Friday in U.S. District Court. Nimo closed more deals using employee discounts than any other FCA salesperson in Michigan, and at times was No. 1 nationwide, according to the affidavit.
Officials at the dealership in Clinton Township, Mich., did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Nimo has been removed from the staff listing on the store's website.
“FCA US is committed to preserving the integrity of our employee purchase programs and is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office," the automaker said in a statement. "We note that dealers are independent businesses and are solely responsible for their conduct and operations. As the matter is ongoing, we cannot discuss it further at this time.”
In the majority of transactions that prosecutors allege were fraudulent, buyers claimed to be the brother-in-law or sister-in-law of an FCA employee to get a 5 percent discount. The discount codes, known as Employee Purchase Control Numbers, were often bought and sold through private Facebook groups.
FCA's losses from the scheme were compounded by bonuses he received for selling its vehicles, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Joseph Kunnummyalil wrote. From 2010 to 2019, Nimo received $700,000 in rewards directly from FCA, in addition to his compensation from the dealership.
Authorities started investigating Nimo after FCA employees began complaining that their personal discount codes were being applied to sales without their consent, with many saying the numbers were used at Parkway. In the summer of 2019, FCA sent Kunnummyalil a list of 268 employee numbers that were reported as unauthorized by its employees. All of them were linked to sales made by Nimo from Feb. 21, 2016 to June 18, 2018.
Nimo was arrested Friday morning. He appeared in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti today and was released on bond. A preliminary exam was set for May 21.
The case was investigated by special agents from Homeland Security Investigations and the Clinton Township Police Department. FCA corporate investigators provided assistance.
“Automobile sales play a major role in our state’s economy,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin, in a statement. “Corruption of the sort alleged in today’s complaint imposes costs on automotive manufacturers that are ultimately passed to consumers. The charges announced today are serious and reflect my office’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of this market.”
A manager at a nearby FCA dealership told investigators that Nimo sold about 250 vehicles in January 2020 alone, an unusually high number. The manager said Nimo frequently sold more vehicles himself than entire sales departments at most FCA dealerships.
In 2014, Nimo’s father, Salim, leased at least three vehicles through his son at Parkway, investigators found. Apollon Nimo falsely indicated that his father was the brother-in-law of three different FCA employees, the filing said.
Nimo’s name came up in Facebook groups discussing the buying and selling of employee discount codes. According to screenshots included in the government’s case, one group member asked for recommendations on leases, for example, and another responded: “Come on Peter I’ve told you about Apollo 1000 times plus everyone else in here uses him.”