Dealers historically have a bad rap and Kia dealers are far from the exception. As recently as 2018, the brand’s dealers were ranked as having some of the worst customer service around. And while it’s not all dealers, it’s enough to keep some buyers away. Unfortunately one Oklahoma dealer more than lived up to that bad rap, as Automotive News reports the owner of one Kia dealership and his employees were recently convicted of auto loan fraud.
The ringleader in the fraud was Bobby Mayes, owner and CEO of Big Red dealership group out of Norman, Oklahoma. Along with the Kia dealer in question, the group also has a second Kia dealer, a Yamaha and Mitsubishi store, and a used car store.
The grift: Mayes and two of his employees, Charles Gooch and Courtney Wells, used the dealer to target customers with low credit scores. Somehow they convinced finance companies to issue auto loans to people who never should have been approved. The area’s local newspaper, The Norman Transcript, further elaborates:
The indictment further alleges the defendants made materially false statements and omissions to the lenders about the type, source and amount of borrowers’ down payments or vehicle trade-ins, and bribed at least one loan officer.
That’s not all of it. The scumminess of this trio continues with setting up a shell company to funnel funds through as well.
If a customer came in and didn’t have money for the down payment, the Kia dealer would direct them to their very own pawnshop where they would ask if the customer had anything they could pawn to get the money. Called Norman Pawn & Gun, it never had any actual employees, nor was it ever open to the public. But it was owned by Gooch and in a building owned by Mayes. From Automotive News:
In 2015, Mayes and Gooch created what authorities described as a shell pawnshop known as Norman Pawn & Gun, according to prosecutors. The defendants told Big Red Dealerships staff to ask customers whether they owned items that could be pawned toward a down payment. Gooch or other staff “would typically write an appraisal value of the items that matched the amount needed to satisfy a Lender’s cash down payment requirement,” the indictment states. However, lenders were told the consumer had put cash down.
Once the loans were approved by the lenders, the dealer cut customers a check (after forging their signatures of course), cut the dealer a check, and then reimbursed the pawnshop. Mayes and Gooch were convicted on November 19th on 25 counts. Wells was only convicted of 19 of the charges. Wells plans to appeal, while Mayes shockingly maintains his innocence. “I am completely innocent of all these charges.”
While other dealers have faced charges over similar things, none have reached this level of fraudulant action. Approving someone for a loan who shouldn’t be approved and potentially making their financial situation worse is bad enough. But suggesting they pawn items for a down payment and using their information for personal gain is a whole other level of scumbag.