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DA announces biggest auto theft scam in San Diego County history

Posted at 2:20 PM, Jun 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-20 21:24:30-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The biggest auto theft scheme in San Diego history has come to an end. District Attorney Summer Stephen announced Thursday that more than 100 vehicles were stolen though identity theft and fraud dating back to 2016.

Investigators say the ringleader, 34-year-old Bryan Orr, created shell companies and used more than 20 co-conspirators to help him steal cars using identity theft and fraud. The items stolen ranged from high-end luxury vehicles to RVs and jet skis.

"They would create fake lines of credit, fake credit histories, fake documents so that they could use it in their schemes," said CHP Captain James Portilla. "He would create fake websites so if an institution wanted to verify info on a loan application they would look like there was a legit business."

In one scam, a straw buyer would purchase and finance a new vehicle. Thereafter, the auto loan would be paid in full by other co-conspirators. Once the title to the vehicle was sent to the purchaser, the vehicle would be immediately re-sold. Once the sale proceeds were secured, the individuals who made the payments would falsely report the fraudulent use of their bank accounts, leading financial institutions to refund the payments that had been made on the vehicles. Immediately the funds were withdrawn and passed on to Orr, investigators said.

“As newer vehicles become equipped with effective anti-theft technologies, traditional methods of stealing vehicles are not as effective,” said Portilla, “As a result, we have seen an increase in vehicle theft using a variety of fraud schemes.”

Another fraudulent scheme involved the purchase or return of “merchandise” between the various shell companies. Once the seller withdrew the proceeds from the transaction, the buyer would dispute the purchase and receive a provisional credit from the bank. Similar to the vehicle purchase scheme, upon receipt of the refund, the funds would be withdrawn immediately or used to make fraudulent purchases with other “shell companies.” Orr used the shell companies to steal in excess of $2.5 million from banks during this time period, prosecutors said.

Orr has no criminal history and is still in custody on $6 million bail. If convicted, he may face up to 100 years in prison.

While 21 people face charges, six of them are still wanted in this case.