The operator of a New Jersey car dealership, who was a subject of ABC's "The Lookout" investigation into superstorm Sandy-damaged cars being sold on used car lots, was charged today with using false vehicle titles to sell the cars to unsuspecting customers.
Jonathan Olin, 41, the operator of used car dealership D&D Auto Sales, also known as Pinky N Brain Corp., in Old Bridge, N.J., is now facing charges of theft by deception, conspiracy to commit computer theft and tampering with public records.
Olin and two D&D Auto Sales employees, along with a technician from the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) are accused of carrying out a fraudulent scheme from February through July 2013, according to prosecutors.
"The Lookout" team went undercover this summer at D&D Auto Sales, where they discovered a 2006 Ford F-350 truck seriously damaged by superstorm Sandy being sold on the lot for $19,999. The truck's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and auction records indicated it was damaged by a flood.
A D&D salesman sold the car to a producer from ABC's "The Lookout" for its asking price and referred to a flood alert on the vehicle's CarFax report as only "a glitch."
But when "The Lookout" team brought the truck to Allan Picker, owner and certified mechanic at All-Time AutoBody in Point Pleasant, N.J., he discovered the car had serious damage, including a corroded transmission, as well as potentially hazardous airbags that could randomly deploy while driving.
When "The Lookout" report aired in July, D&D Auto Sales responded to team's findings and stated, "D&D auto sales sincerely regrets the unfortunate misrepresentation of the product by the salesperson. We do not condone such business practices and have terminated the salesman as a result of his independent action. This is in no way reflective of typical business practices at D&D."
Olin and the two D&D Auto Sales employees, along with the MVC technician are accused of carrying out a fraudulent scheme from February through July 2013, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors say the dealership acquired eight vehicles at auction that sustained flood damage during Sandy and that were auctioned by an insurance company "for parts only," but that the defendants allegedly had fraudulent "clean" titles issued for the vehicles and sold seven of them to customers who were unaware of the flood damage.
Olin said he had no comment when reached by ABC News today.
New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman said in a news release that the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission referred the case to the state's Division of Criminal Justice after ABC News aired an investigative report in July on flood vehicles ending up on used car lots. The vehicle commission also received information from the National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program.
An estimated 250,000 cars were submerged for days in corrosive saltwater after Sandy pummeled the Northeast in October 2012, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
CarFax estimates that more than 100,000 Sandy-damaged vehicles ended up back on the road.