Vehicle Dealer and Accountant Sentenced to Prison in $75.9 Million Financing Fraud Scheme That Caused 18 Lenders to Lose $58.8 Million
CHICAGO—A former area motorcycle and recreational vehicle dealer and his accountant were sentenced to 13½ and 2½ years, respectively, in federal prison for a $75.9 million fraudulent financing scheme that resulted in 18 lenders losing more than $58.8 million, federal law enforcement officials announced today.
RUSSELL S. OTT, 51, of Oswego, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud and tax evasion, was sentenced on Dec. 3 to 13½ years in prison, beginning Jan. 20, 2015, and ordered to pay approximately $61.16 million in restitution to the victim financial institutions and the United States Treasury. Ott was the owner of Emily, Inc., which did business as Pro Source Motorsports and was located last in Morris, Ill. Between 1995 and October 2008, Pro Source, the dealership at the center of the scheme, sold new and used motorcycles, luxury motor homes, recreational vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, boats and jet skis. In 2007 and 2008, Ott also had ownership interests in Liberty Cycle in Libertyville, and Huntley Chevrolet in Libertyville.
BRIAN McMAHON, 55, of Naperville, who pleaded guilty to two counts of aiding and assisting the filing of Ott’s false tax returns, was sentenced today to 2½ years in prison, beginning Jan. 21, 2015, and ordered to pay $396,829 restitution to the U.S. Treasury. McMahon was Ott and Emily, Inc.’s certified public accountant, and he also owned Triumph Suzuki in Naperville between 2001 and 2004 when he sold it to Ott.
The sentences were imposed by U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang in Federal Court in Chicago.
Eight other co-defendants who acted as straw buyers in sham vehicle sales were charged with Ott and McMahon in August 2013. All eight have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing.
According to court documents, Ott’s bank fraud scheme involved two prongs: in one, Pro Source Motorsports fraudulently obtained more than $31.3 million in direct financing through five lines of credit from Fifth Third Bank, which lost more than $27.1 million; and, in the second, individual straw borrowers obtained just under 200 fraudulent loans totaling more than $44.58 million, which resulted in 18 financial institutions losing more than $31.66 million.
Ott and the straw buyers fraudulently obtained money for their personal use and benefit, enabling them to maintain lavish lifestyles, operate various businesses, and/or make investments. The money they obtained created the false appearance of personal wealth and helped induce the lenders to advance funds more readily due to their misplaced confidence that the defendants had sufficient personal wealth to repay the loans.
Ott and McMahon fabricated false personal and business tax documents and financial statements and provided them to Fifth Third Bank, which funded traditional “floor plan loans.” Ott faxed false flooring requests with fictitious vehicle identification numbers for non-existent recreational vehicles, or real VINs for actual RVs but with dramatically inflated values. Ott sometimes “double floored” vehicles by obtaining separate financing from Fifth Third and a different lender for the same vehicle.
Ott enlisted the eight straw borrowers to obtain fraudulent loan proceeds to share with him even though they did not actually purchase the vehicles ― usually very expensive RVs ― for which the loans were made and the vehicles generally did not exist. The lenders generally deposited the loan funds into Emily, Inc.’s bank account, and then Ott periodically disbursed the proceeds to straw borrowers to operate and support their own businesses and lifestyles, make investments, and make monthly payments on some of the loans to perpetuate the scheme.
Ott used fraudulently obtained funds to operate Pro Source, which lost money from approximately 2001 through 2008; and to make lavish purchases, including a house in Elburn for approximately $679,491 and subsequent improvements that increased the home’s cost to more than $1.1 million; a $258,000 vacation home in Butternut, Wis.; a $350,000 rental home in South Elgin; a Sky Hawk 172 Cessna airplane and hanger for approximately $200,000; and pick-up trucks and other vehicles for family members and employees of Pro Source. He also used the money to invest in and purchase other vehicle dealerships, including more than $3.6 million in Huntley Chevrolet, and more than $1 million in Liberty Cycle.
The sentences were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and James C. Lee, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hogan.