Kentucky car dealer convicted in truck warranty fraud scheme

Published 6:24 am Friday, December 10, 2021

A Kentucky used car dealer has been convicted by a federal jury in West Virginia in a truck warranty fraud scheme in which prosecutors said he bilked automaker Toyota Motor Corp. out of more than $4.3 million.

James Pinson, 46, of Pritchard, West Virginia, was convicted following a three-day trial of multiple counts including wire and mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiring to commit money laundering, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Pinson, who was the owner of a dealership in Louisa, Kentucky, faces up to 220 years in prison, plus a mandatory two-year sentence for aggravated identity theft. Sentencing has been set for March 3. He also must pay restitution, while property connected to the scheme is subject to forfeiture.

According to evidence at his trial, Pinson bought Toyota trucks at wholesale prices at auction. He fraudulently titled the trucks in the names of Kentucky and West Virginia residents whose driver’s licenses he had obtained. Pinson then persuaded Toyota to rebuy the trucks at 150% of their retail value.

Between 2013 and 2015, Toyota issued 350 checks in the names of individual false owners, prosecutors said in a statement. Pinson forged signatures on all 350 checks, which he deposited into his bank account.

Pinson used the money to buy more Toyota trucks at wholesale prices. He also paid cash bribes to a Toyota dealership service manager and a company representative hired to administer a customer support program.

Prosecutors said Pinson used the money to buy a beach house in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.