Queens Village auto shop worker charged in scam

Queens DA Richard Brown and a group of investigators talk about the arrest of several suspects who were allegedly involved in two auto loan scams. Photo courtesy Queens DA's office
TimesLedger Newspapers

Investigators have taken down a major auto loan scamming ring that used a Queens Village dealership as part of its operations and cost financial institutions nearly $2 million in losses.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced last Thursday the arrest and arraignment of 18 individuals on 165 charges, including enterprise corruption.

The suspects operated two separate rings where they purchased luxury vehicles using straw buyers and fraudulent loans before reselling the cars on the black market, the DA said.

“This was a highly complex and sophisticated financial fraud scheme in which individuals with good credit agreed to ‘lend’ their identity and credit scores to the defendants in return for monetary kickbacks, as well as a general assurance that engaging in the activity would boost their credit score,” he said in a statement.

The arrests came following a three-year investigation by the police into two rings. Two individuals involved in the conspiracies are still on the loose, according to Brown. One of the suspects, Duane Box, of Queens Village, worked at ABC Auto Sales, at 98-04 Springfield Blvd.

Between July 1, 2008, and March 30, 2010, a dozen of the defendants who were led by Andre Dickenson, 31, of Brooklyn, conspired to recruit straw buyers with good credit to take out $1.9 million in loans from banks to buy the autos, the DA said.

The buyers were allegedly promised kickbacks for being part of the operation and that they would earn better credit ratings, according to the DA.

The cars, which were mostly Mercedes-Benzes, Cadillacs and other high-end brands, would then be given to the conspiracy’s leaders or allegedly retitled and sold in other locations, such as Florida, according to Brown.

Some of the car purchases took place at ABC Auto Sales, where one of the arrested men, Duane Box, worked, Brown said. ABC would wholesale the vehicles over to a more established dealership and fill out the paperwork to the bank to make it appear as if they were sold on their lot, the DA said.

The dealership, which could not be reached for comment, was not charged by the DA.

A second group of scammers, who were allegedly led by South African national Alexander Ndaula, of Brooklyn, also used straw buyers to take out auto loans, but no cars were purchased, the DA said. The money would allegedly be laundered to Ndaula, but he did give some of the cash to the borrowers as a kickback, according to Brown.

The defendants in both groups would make initial payments on the loans before defaulting, leaving the straw buyer, the dealership and banks to deal with the losses, the DA said.

Several of the members of the conspiracy were from southeast Queens and the operations involved two dealerships in the area, according to Brown. Dickenson was arrested and arraigned earlier in the year on murder charges for a 2009 killing on Long Island.

If convicted on their charges, the defendants face up to 25 years in prison, the DA said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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