|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that the operator of a used car dealership in Middlesex County, N.J., was charged today with using fraudulent vehicle titles to sell cars damaged in Superstorm Sandy to unsuspecting customers. A State Motor Vehicle Commission technician and two employees of the car dealership previously were charged in the criminal scheme.
The Division of Criminal Justice charged the following defendants in connection with the issuance of fraudulent titles and the sale of flood vehicles by Pinky N Brain Corp NJ, doing business as D&D Auto Sales on Englishtown Road in Old Bridge:
- Jonathan Olin, 41, of Manalapan, the operator of D&D Auto Sales, was charged today with Theft by Deception (2nd degree), Conspiracy to Commit Computer Theft (2nd degree) and Tampering with Public Records or Information (3rd degree).
- Jessie Dinome, 29, of Jackson, who worked as a technician at the Freehold Motor Vehicle Agency, was charged on Oct. 28 with Computer Theft (2nd degree) and Tampering with Public Records and Information (3rd degree).
- Christina Farese, 32, of Old Bridge, a clerk/receptionist employed by D&D Auto Sales, was charged on Dec. 6 with Computer Theft (2nd degree), Tampering with Public Records and Information (3rd degree), and Forgery (3rd degree).
- Jacob Douek, 40, of Staten Island, N.Y., a car salesman at D&D Auto Sales, was charged on Dec. 18 with Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception (2nd degree), Theft by Deception (3rd degree), and Conspiracy to Tamper with Public Records and Information (3rd degree).
The defendants allegedly carried out the fraudulent scheme from February through July 2013. The dealership acquired eight vehicles at auction that sustained flood damage during Sandy and that were auctioned by an insurance company “for parts only.” The defendants allegedly had fraudulent “clean” titles issued for the vehicles and sold seven of them to customers who were not told of the flood damage.
“It is shameful any time business operators cheat customers by deceiving them about the soundness of the products they are selling, but this case is especially egregious because the defendants capitalized on Superstorm Sandy, an event that caused so much loss in New Jersey, and they did so by crookedly selling vehicles that did not belong on the road at all,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We have zero tolerance for this type of devious behavior that harms consumers and puts the public at risk.”
“When shady entrepreneurs cross the line from bad business practices into outright criminal behavior, as alleged here, we stand ready to prosecute them aggressively,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This type of white collar crime is bad for consumers and bad for the business environment in New Jersey.”
“While this is an obvious consumer issue, the sale of flood cars is also a matter of public safety,” said Motor Vehicle Commission Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez. “Vehicles damaged by flood waters are not only dangerous for the people who drive them but they pose a threat to the other cars sharing the road with them.”
The eight flood vehicles acquired by Pinky N Brain were all insured by the same company, which paid claims on them as total losses after Superstorm Sandy. The insurance company had the vehicles auctioned without titles under “bills of sale,” designating them as salvage vehicles to be used for parts only, not for resale. It is alleged, however, that at Olin’s direction, the defendants fraudulently arranged for “clean” titles to be issued for the vehicles so that they could be sold.
It is alleged that Farese, the receptionist at D&D, in conjunction with Dinome, the technician at the Freehold Motor Vehicle Agency, improperly utilized the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) computer system to create false “clean” titles for the flood vehicles, forging the signatures of the prior owners in the process to transfer the titles to D&D. Dinome remains suspended without pay from her job as a technician for the MVC as a result of the charges against her.
D&D allegedly sold seven of the vehicles to customers using the fraudulent clean titles, without disclosing that the vehicles had been damaged in Superstorm Sandy. Douek, the car salesman, allegedly misled customers about the cars and about adverse information related to Superstorm Sandy that showed up in CarFax reports. The seven vehicles were sold by D&D for a total of $86,903.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Because they are indictable offenses, the charges will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.
Detective Sean N. Egan, Deputy Attorney General Paul Salvatoriello and Investigator Ruben Contreras conducted the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, under the Supervision of Lt. Bill Newsome and Deputy Attorney General Jill Mayer, Chief of the Bureau. Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s Security, Investigations & Internal Audit Division and investigators from MVC’s Business Licensing Monitoring Unit for their valuable assistance in the investigation.
The case was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which received information from the National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program and ABC News, which did extensive investigative reporting on flood vehicles that were ending up on used car lots across the country.
The Motor Vehicle Commission initially suspended D&D’s license to do business and seized company records on July 17, 2013. 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 flood vehicles by an ABC producer. She purchased a flood-damaged Ford F-350 truck for $19,999.