Feds Charge Dealership Staff for Ad Scam Featured
19 January 2018
Three people have been arrested for their roles in an alleged advertising scam at a Northern California car dealership.According to the indictment, from at least 2010 to 2016, Amir Bakhtiari orchestrated an embezzlement scheme at Sonnen Motorcars, a dealer group that owned and operated three car dealerships in Marin County - Sonnen Volkswagen, Audi Marin, and Porsche Marin. From 2009 to 2016, Bakhtiari managed the Volkswagen and Audi dealerships. Bakhtiari allegedly used his role to initiate a scheme wherein Sonnen made payments on fraudulent invoices to fake advertising vendors who then forwarded the majority of the proceeds from the scam back to Bakhtiari. The indictment alleges that Arlette Casino, who served as Sonnen’s controller from 2013 to 2016, and Austin Caba, who controlled one of the fake advertising vendors, conspired with Bakhtiari and participated in the scheme since at least 2013. The indictment alleges that Bakhtiari directed approximately $6.3 million in fraudulent transfers from 2010 to 2016. When the money reached the vendor bank accounts, the individuals who controlled these accounts wrote checks back to Bakhtiari for a majority of the funds. In total, Bakhtiari received approximately $3.6 million via checks in this manner. According to the indictment, Bakhtiari and Casino also initiated other fraudulent payments to themselves, including bonuses that Bakhtiari falsely claimed were funded by the corporate offices of Volkswagen or Audi. Bakhtiari and Casino approved the payment of these fraudulent bonuses, knowing they were not authorized by the majority owner of Sonnen Motorcars. Bakhtiari, Casino, and Caba were all charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Bakhtiari and Caba were also charged with conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.