A North Georgia car dealer accused of scamming dozens of customers in an alleged tax and loan scheme may have made as much as $2 million for himself, Channel 2 Action News reported.
Mitch Simpson, who ran a dealership in White County, was arrested last month on three counts of felony theft by conversion following a state investigation into claims that he scammed dozens of customers by not reporting his sales.
Simpson was denied bond Thursday, but prosecutors said he may have made off with far more money in the alleged scheme than investigators first thought.
A Channel 2 investigation revealed dozens of car buyers who purchased vehicles from Simpson’s dealership never received their titles, and their vehicle taxes were never paid.
The customers who reported problems were those who paid cash for their vehicles or used Simpson’s in-house financing, according to the news station.
“We suspect that he was not just taking the buyers’ money, but also floor-planning the same car multiple times,” Josh Waites, the Georgia Department of Revenue’s director of special investigations, said. “In this case, he would lien them multiple times and then never send the money in to release them.”
Simpson was convicted of a similar car loan scam in 2011 and sentenced to probation, Channel 2 reported.
On Thursday, Simpson’s mother took the stand on his behalf, testifying that her son was not a flight risk and did not steal money from his customers.
“He has no money, at all,” Elsie Hogan said. “He has nothing. He has nothing, sir.”
But prosecutors told a different story.
In addition to $38,000 in unpaid car taxes, investigators said Simpson double- and even triple-financed some vehicles, and that he owes lenders nearly $800,000.
The good news for buyers is that the state worked out agreements with the lenders to get their titles paid for.
“We’ve obtained 52 with the help of the attorney general’s office and it’s been a great win for us,” Waites said.
Simpson’s attorney Jeff Wolfe argued there were holes in the state’s case, challenging one investigator who testified authorities had not dug into Simpson’s financial records.
“There’s a large gap between an underfunded business and a criminal enterprise,” he told the news station.
A grand jury is set to meet next month to discuss the possibility of bringing additional charges against Simpson. In the meantime, he remains held at the White County jail.
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