Former auto dealer faces fraud charges

DOWNEY - A former owner of defunct Downey Motorcars and his wife were arrested Feb. 12 in connection with a fraudulent auto sales loan scheme that defrauded customers and banks out of more than $5 million, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced this week.Ruben Hernandez and Aida Gutierrez-Bonilla, of Pasadena, were arrested on multiple counts of grand theft, identity theft, filing false financial statements and dissuading a witness by force, officials said. Both were booked into Los Angeles County Jail with bail set at $4 million and $500,000, respectively. The arrests came as part of a joint investigation between DMV officials and the United States Marshall's Office Fugitive Task Force. Last September, DMV investigators arrested three former employees of the dealership - Marisela Alvarez, Joel Rodriguez and Leticia Medrano - on felony counts of grand theft, identity theft, and filing false financial statements. All three have hearings scheduled this week, officials said. According to investigators, the scheme consisted of fraudulent loan applications that utilized stolen identities, falsified information, and phony Social Security numbers. The suspects allegedly resold and double-financed many of the same vehicles with different finance companies. The suspects used the personal information of three victims without their permission to secure several loans, investigators charge. Hernandez also allegedly engineered several fraudulent real estate loans. In 2005, he submitted real estate loan applications containing false financial statements to various lending firms on six different properties. In addition to Downey Motorcars, Hernandez and Gutierrez-Bonilla also operated South Gate Motors, officials said. The dealerships closed in January 2006. ********** Published: February 20, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 44