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Union County Man Among Five Accused of $1.4M Bergen County Auto Loan Scam

Bergen County Scotch Plains

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced today that the owner of a now-defunct Bergen County used car dealership, along with three employees and a bookkeeper, have been charged with conspiracy, money laundering, and other offenses in connection with bank financing scam that allegedly netted $1.4 million in fraudulent loans for luxury cars.

The owner of D.I.B Leasing in Teterboro, along with three employees and the dealer’s bookkeeper were indicted on first-degree charges of conspiracy, financial facilitation of a criminal activity, and trafficking in personal identifying information pertaining to another person for allegedly submitting numerous fraudulent car loan applications between August 2012 and February 2015. The dealership’s finance officer was charged previously with financial facilitation and misconduct by a corporate official in connection with the alleged scam.

Prosecutors allege the defendants created fake employment records, inflated incomes, and supplied false pay stubs and fictitious employee verifications to dupe banks into approving auto financing for customers whose income levels did not qualify them for loans on the pricey vehicles.

Four of the loans were taken out in the names of customers who had submitted personal information to apply for financing but ultimately did not buy cars from the dealership, prosecutors allege.

“Consumer confidentiality and trust in the system is crucial to anyone buying a car,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. “These defendants are accused of shamelessly exploiting that trust for their own selfish gains. My office will aggressively investigate and prosecute corrupt retailers use customers as unwitting pawns in their unlawful schemes."

In one case, the victim had never been to D.I.B. Leasing or applied for a car loan there, prosecutors allege.

“None of the victims had any idea car loans were taken out in their name until they began receiving bank notices that they were behind on payment for vehicles they didn’t own,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “This was a brazen scheme that defrauded consumers and banks alike.”

Charged in the scheme were:

Patsy Galasso, 75, of Cliffside Park, owner of D.I.B. Leasing

Hector Marquez, 43, of Monroe, the general manager of the dealership.

Paul Russo, 40, of Scotch Plains, the finance manager of the dealership.

Lisa Ghobrial, 48, of Ridgefield, title manager.

Jennifer Perez, 30, of Union City, who assisted with loan applications.

Michael Ricciardi, 53, of Wayne, who did bookkeeping for the dealership.

In addition to the charges above, Galasso, Marquez, Ghobrial, and Ricciardi were all charged with second-degree identity theft, and 62 counts of theft by deception – two in the second degree and 60 in the third degree. Marquez, Galasso, and Ghobrial were also charged with second-degree misconduct by a corporate official.

First-degree crimes carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $200,000; second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000; while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000.

People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.