CHARLESTON — Joining a co-conspirator, a North Carolina man entered a guilty plea to wire fraud for his role in a scheme to defraud Toyota of more than $4 million.
Frank Russo, 69, entered the plea, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart. Kevin Fluharty, 59, of West Virginia, previously entered a guilty plea in the same case to mail fraud concerning the same scheme.
According to Stuart, the two men fraudulently used driver’s licenses and falsified vehicle ownership information, seeking more than $4 million for their deception.
Russo was employed as service manager by a Toyota dealership in Kanawha County and Fluharty was a notary public. The men admitted they were participants in a scheme in which a Kentucky used car dealership, Big Blue Motor Sales, bought trucks at wholesale prices at auction, obtained hundreds of copies of Kentucky and West Virginia residents’ driver’s licenses, fraudulently titled the trucks in the name of those residents, and then got the car company to repurchase the trucks at 150% of value.
The scheme relied on Russo to ensure that vehicles brought to the Toyota dealership qualified for the extended warranty extension program and relied on Fluharty to notarize documentation used in the repurchase transactions. Russo admitted that he sent false ownership information to Toyota by electronic wire and Fluharty admitted that he falsely notarized documents knowing that they would be sent through the mail to Toyota.
Russo and Fluharty admitted that they received bribes or kickbacks from Big Blue Motor Sales for their participation in the scheme.
The men face up to 20 years in prison and will be required to pay restitution to Toyota. Russo’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 1, while Fluharty’s will be Aug. 24.