Dealer sold Sandy-flooded cars – Asbury Park Press
FREEHOLD – A Manalapan man who operated D&D Auto Sales in Old Bridge admitted Monday to selling seven vehicles flooded by superstorm Sandy to unsuspecting customers, two of whom found their rides breaking down soon after they left the lot, authorities said.
Jonathan Olin, 42, who operates the used car dealership on Englishtown Road, told a judge that he used fraudulent vehicle titles to sell the swamped cars. Jessie Dinome, 30, of Jackson, who formerly worked as a technician at the Freehold Township office of the state Motor Vehicle Commission, admitted to creating false “clean” titles for the cars.
Olin pleaded guilty to theft by deception before state Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Freehold and faces three years in prison. Besides an agreement on the sentence recommendation, Olin also agreed to provide full restitution to the swindled customers and will forfeit his license to sell vehicles in New Jersey for a period to be decided later by the court.
Dinome pleaded guilty to a charge of tampering with public records or information. As part of her guilty plea, prosecutors are recommending a sentence of up to 364 days in the county jail. She also must forfeit her state job and will be permanently barred from public employment. According to DataUniverse, Dinome, who was suspended without pay after she was charged on Oct. 28, 2013, had a 2013 salary of $36,945 in her job with the MVC.
“By ruthlessly cashing in on superstorm Sandy, Olin not only cheated customers of his car dealership, he put those customers and other motorists at risk, because these flood-damaged vehicles had the potential to fail and even catch fire on the highway,” acting Attorney General John J . Hoffman said in a prepared statement. “Two of the cars did, in fact, fail shortly after they were purchased, but fortunately no one was hurt.”
A former salesman at D&D Auto Sales, Jacob Douek, 40, of Staten Island, faces charges of theft by deception and conspiracy to tamper with public records. Christina Farese, 33, of Old Bridge, who worked as a clerk and receptionist at the dealership, was charged with computer theft, tampering with public records and information and forgery, but she has applied to the court to have her charges dismissed through participation in the pre-trial intervention program, authorities said.
The scheme occurred from February through July 2013, when the dealership purchased eight vehicles at auction. They sustained flood damage during Sandy and were all insured by the same carrier, which paid claims on them as total losses, authorities said.
The insurance company had the vehicles designated as being used “for parts only.”
At Olin’s direction, Dinome, who authorities said received assistance from Farese, used the Motor Vehicle Commission computer system to create false “clean” titles for the vehicles. The signatures of prior owners were forged to transfer the titles to D&D Auto Sales, the state added.
The dealership sold seven of the eight cars for a total $86,000. According to authorities, Douek, the salesman, mislead at least one customer about a flood vehicle and about information about superstorm Sandy that was in the vehicle’s CarFax report.
The case was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice by the MVC, which received information from the National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program and ABC News, which was reporting on flooded vehicles that were ending up on used car lots across the country.
The MVC initially suspended D&D’s license to do business and seized company records on July 17. The company’s license remains suspended.
ABC News’ “The Lookout” aired a report in July that included the MVC action against D&D as well as footage of a prior undercover purchase from the dealership of one of the flooded vehicles by an ABC producer.
David P. Willis: firstname.lastname@example.org
FLOOD RIPOFF ADVICE
Be careful when buying a used car:
• Check the vehicle’s title history and be wary if it has been titled multiple times over a short time period, a sign of potential fraud.
• Obtain a vehicle history report from the dealer, or get one yourself from a reputable source.
• Look for an insurance company’s name on the title history and contact the company for information.
Source: New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission