A federal judge in Georgia sentenced two men to prison for their roles in a small auto financing fraud ring that involved seven defendants and created $1.7 million in bank and credit union losses.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May sentenced Michael Miller of Sandy Springs, Ga., and Melvin Goode Wentt of Brooklyn, N.Y., to prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, according to judgments filed on Aug. 15.
Miller, 58, was sentenced to two years in prison followed by five years of supervised release and ordered to pay $316,826 in restitution, according to a judgment filing. Goode Wentt, 59, was sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison, as well as five years of supervised release, according to a judgment filing. Goode Wentt was ordered to pay $765,603.25 in restitution.
Over the past four years, the defendants and four other co-conspirators recruited individuals to apply for car loans with banks and credit unions through fake auto dealerships, U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said in a statement Aug. 16. Individuals applied for loans using fake vehicle purchase orders created by Miller and Goode Wentt, Pak said, and once lenders issued them a check, loan applicants would split the funds with the conspirators. The scheme, which included more than 80 auto loans, left lenders with nothing because there were no vehicles to repossess.
The lenders identified in the suit -- USAA Federal Savings Bank, Digital Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union, Air Force Federal Credit Union and NASA Federal Credit Union -- approved loans of $25,015 to $50,000.
Six defendants have been sentenced so far for their role in the scam. One defendant is awaiting extradition from the United Kingdom, Pak said.
"These defendants' 'creative financing' company specialized in 'auto loan conversions,' which was simply fraud," Pak said in the statement. "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."
The U.S. Attorney's Office did not respond to requests for comment.