Federal prosecutors in Chicago have filed charges against 10 individuals tied to an alleged vehicle financing scheme that cost Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) and 19 other lenders more than $56 million.
A Chicago-area vehicle dealership allegedly falsified tax documents in order to qualify for over $31.3 million in direct financing from Fifth Third, according to a press release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Thursday. Federal prosecutors say the dealership's owner, Russell Ott, and his accountant, Brian McMahon, opened five lines of credit to fund "floor plan loans" for nonexistent or dramatically over-valued inventory at Pro Source Motorsports in Morris, Ill.
Eight other individuals are accused of acting as straw buyers in the two-pronged scheme. Prosecutors say they obtained almost $42.4 million in auto loans from 18 financial institutions, funneling the money into the dealership's bank account. Cincinnati-based Fifth Third lost $27.1 million in the scheme and other unidentified lenders lost a combined $29.5 million, according to the FBI.
The defendants allegedly used proceeds from the scheme for business and personal purchases, including a Wisconsin vacation home, college tuition, foreign investments and a private airplane.
All 10 defendants face at least one charge of bank fraud. Eight are charged with federal tax offenses in a 36-count indictment.