Ex-managers sentenced in car dealership theft
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two former car dealership managers have pleaded guilty or no contest to felony theft in what prosecutors describe as a $350,000 fraud.
The victims were usually women with credit problems and a need for immediate transportation, prosecutors said.
Bryan Ashley Collins, 49, and Lawrence “Mike” Thornton, 48, would pocket down payments without giving receipts, then send the customers out with “loaner” vehicles or used cars with temporary tags while supposedly working to make the purchase final. The two men received suspended three-year prison terms Tuesday, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office said in a news release Wednesday.
Collins was a general manager and Thornton was a finance manager for Premier Honda when they were arrested in 2017. Thornton pleaded guilty Feb. 15 to felony theft. On Tuesday, Collins pleaded no contest to the same charge — a plea which accepts a penalty without acknowledging guilt.
Other dealership officials uncovered the scheme, which involved at least 40 customers dating back to 2011, according to the news release.
“There were literally dozens of vehicles in Premier’s inventory that could not be located,” Tracey Fields, the dealership’s customer care coordinator, wrote in a victim impact statement read to the court. She said direct and indirect inventory losses “ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Prosecutors said Collins apparently lost track of one vehicle and reported it as stolen. Police arrested a woman who sued the dealership for $50,000 in damages, the news release said. It did not say whether that case has been resolved.