Abdel "Fred" Baset Jawad, Abdul "Manny" Muniem Mohamad Jawad, Najeh "Alex" Kamal Jawad and Armando Fathic Abdallah, also known as Armando Souza, were arrested. They were being held by federal authorities in Fresno and were scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court. Bail for Abdel Jawad was set at $330,000, according to Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento. Bail for Abdul Jawad was set at $240,000. Najeh Jawad's bail was set at $350,000. Bail for Armando Abdallah was set at $100,000.
Most of the suspects are part owners of The Auto Store of Merced and Own A Car and The Auto Store, both of Modesto. Abdallah was an employee. The dealerships sold used cars (buy here - pay here scam).
The men are suspected of falsifying documents so customers who otherwise wouldn't qualify for loans could get them through Valley First Credit Union. The credit union, which is federally insured, approved about $540,000 in loans dating back to 2002.
See my prior post, Thursday, December 11, 2008,FLORIDA USED CAR DEALERS ARRESTED, SERGIY ZHELEZNYAK IN SARASOTA AND ALI HASSAN HAMMOUD IN MIAMI, STOLEN CARS TO RUSSIA AND MIDDLE EAST, VIN SWITCHING
According to a five-page federal indictment, the men are suspected of lying about where their customers worked and how much their customers earned. In some cases, they are suspected of creating fictitious earnings statements. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
About 60 customers are involved in the case. Some recall signing loan applications, while others claim no knowledge of signing, according to the indictment. It is unknown whether the customers will face charges, said Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento. "Presumably, yes. Whether they knew is the question," she said, adding the investigation is under way.
About 58 officers were involved in the arrests and dealership raids, said FBI Special Agent Steven Dupre. Auto Expo USA of Merced was among the dealerships searched Wednesday. The owners were not available for comment, but a man who identified himself as Mohamad Jawad, the son of one of the owners, stood by the building Wednesday as federal investigators loaded boxes onto a rental truck.
Jawad said his family had done nothing wrong, and he didn't know why the investigators were at the business. Jawad also said the investigators wouldn't tell his family why they were there. Agents also raided a business in Fresno on Wednesday, Horwood said. At least two of the dealerships have a history of complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, said Frank Whitney, chief executive officer of the MidCal BBB.
Own A Car has a C- rating and complaints dating to 2004. Auto Expo, which is not mentioned in the indictment but was searched Wednesday, has an F rating. Each has had a variety of complaints. The suspects, all naturalized U.S. citizens, live in Merced, Madera, Fresno and other areas.
WBI Inc private Detective Agecny