FBI Agents Raid Merced Auto Dealership

December 3, 2008 11:04:28 PM PST
FBI Agents served a search warrant at Auto Expo at 16th and "V" Streets in Merced.At the same time, more agents gathered evidence at AA Consulting at Shaw and Brawley in Northwest Fresno.

Federal agents spent hours searching Auto Expo in Merced as employees at nearby dealerships watched and wondered.

Alex Mitchell said, "I got a phone call from one of my managers, he said 'what's going on'? I said, 'what do you mean'? So I turned around and took a look and I see the FBI agents over there. So I tried to go and find what's going on. I thought maybe a car theft or someone had broken in or something like that, but nobody was saying nothing."

Federal officials say the owners of this dealership and two in Modesto are under investigation for possible bank fraud. An indictment by the U.S. Attorneys Office claims they helped customers prepare false documents in order to get financing to buy cars they wanted to sell. Prosecutors say the fraud involved about 60 customers and cost the Valley First Credit Union in Modesto more than $500 thousand dollars. The son of one of the owners told us his father was arrested at his Merced home early Wednesday morning. He said his uncles in Modesto and Madera were also arrested at the exact same time.

Later Wednesday afternoon, agents were seen loading evidence boxes from Auto Expo into a truck. One sales consultant from the dealership next door says the struggling economy has hurt car sales and he wondered whether that may have motivated a white collar crime.

Mitchell said, "It's a tough time, but you've gotta make the best you can do about it. Sometimes maybe someone else is doing something they're not supposed to do, who knows, but you've just got to do what you can do to make it, but make it honestly."

Federal officials are still investigating and may release more details later this week.

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