TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that the operator of a used car dealership in Middlesex County, N.J., was sentenced to prison today for using fraudulent vehicle titles to sell cars damaged in Superstorm Sandy to unsuspecting customers. A suspended Motor Vehicle Commission technician who helped him obtain the fraudulent vehicle titles previously was sentenced in the criminal scheme, and charges are pending against a former salesman at the dealership.
Jonathan Olin, 42, of Manalapan, the former operator of D&D Auto Sales on Englishtown Road in Old Bridge, was sentenced to three years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Monmouth County. Olin pleaded guilty on Aug. 25 to an accusation charging him with second-degree theft by deception. He was also ordered to pay full restitution to the victims. In pleading guilty, Olin admitted that he orchestrated a scheme in which fraudulent titles were obtained for eight flood vehicles, seven of which were then sold to unsuspecting customers by Pinky N Brain Corp NJ, doing business as D&D Auto Sales.
Co-defendant Jessie Dinome, 30, of Jackson, who formerly worked as a technician at the Freehold Motor Vehicle Agency, was sentenced on Oct. 31 to two years of probation, conditioned upon her performing 100 hours of community service. She pleaded guilty on Aug. 25 to an accusation charging her with third-degree tampering with public records or information. Dinome forfeited her state job and is permanently barred from public employment.
Deputy Attorney General John Paone represented the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau at the sentencing hearing.
“Olin proved himself to be the lowest form of con artist and parasite by cashing in on the tragedy of Superstorm Sandy,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Not only did he rip off car buyers, he put them and other drivers in danger by selling storm-damaged cars that could fail or even catch fire.”
“We won’t stand for business operators who cheat consumers and disregard their safety,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Olin’s conduct was especially egregious because he enlisted a public employee in his corrupt scheme so he could sell these flood vehicles with clean titles.”
“The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission has, and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in order to protect all driver and vehicle documents,” said Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez. “We will not stand by and watch individuals profit from the storm’s destruction and put people’s safety on the roadways at risk.”
A former car salesman at D&D Auto Sales, Jacob Douek, 40, of Staten Island, N.Y., faces pending charges for allegedly deceiving customers about the flood vehicles. He is charged with conspiracy to commit theft by deception (2nd degree), theft by deception (3rd degree) and conspiracy to tamper with public records (3rd degree). A woman who worked as a clerk and receptionist at the dealership, Christina Farese, 33, of Old Bridge, also was charged in the case, but she was admitted to the Pre-Trial Intervention program.
The defendants carried out the fraudulent scheme from February through July 2013. The dealership acquired eight vehicles at auction that sustained flood damage during Superstorm Sandy. 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 Sandy. The insurance company had the vehicles auctioned without titles under “bills of sale,” designating them as to be used “for parts only.”
At Olin’s direction, Dinome – allegedly with assistance from Farese –improperly utilized the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) computer system to create false “clean” titles for the vehicles. The signatures of the prior owners were forged to transfer the titles to D&D. Dinome was suspended without pay by the MVC after she was charged on Oct. 28, 2013.
D&D sold seven of the vehicles to customers using the fraudulent clean titles, without disclosing that the vehicles had been damaged in Superstorm Sandy. The seven vehicles were sold by D&D for a total of approximately $86,000. Douek, the car salesman, allegedly misled at least one customer about a flood vehicle and about adverse information related to Superstorm Sandy that was in the vehicle’s CarFax report.
Detective Sean Egan, Detective Michael Duffield, Detective Christian Harden, Detective Joseph McCray, Investigator Ruben Contreras and former Deputy Attorney General Paul Salvatoriello 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. Deputy Attorney General Salvatoriello took the guilty pleas. 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 pickup truck for $19,999.