INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Four people face federal charges in connection with a September 2015 raid at used car dealership Elite Motors in Indianapolis.
Mohamed Noshi Mahmoud, 39, of Fishers, Mahdi Kehlifi, 23, of Indianapolis, Issa Kayyali, 28, of Indianapolis, and Hamza Dridi, 26, of Indianapolis, face a variety of charges under the RICO statute including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and interstate transportation of stolen property.
“As is so often the case in these fraud cases, the ultimate victims are the ones that can least afford it,” said US Attorney Josh Minkler. “Elite Motors abused processes in place that would allow citizens with subprime credit to get back on their feet through legitimate vehicle sales.”
FBI agents raided two Elite Imports locations, one at 46th Street and Keystone Keystone Avenue and another at Pendleton Pike, on September 22, 2015. Other names used for the company include Elite Motors and Elite Enterprise.
Mahmoud was the leader and manager of Elite Enterprise. He allegedly directed other members and associates of the enterprise to engage in activity that assisted him in carrying out unlawful acts. Kehlifi was a managing sales associate involved in the day-to-day operations of the dealership, Kayyali was a sales associate and Dridi was the service manager and mechanic in charge of the chop shop the dealership used to disassemble vehicles that were later alleged to be stolen.
The indictment alleges that Mahmoud and other Elite managers engaged in three separate but interlocking fraud schemes on behalf of the business enterprise.
The first was to procure fraudulent documents and submit them to lending and financial institutions to underwrite the purchase of cars, trucks and motorcycles on behalf of Elite’s customers. The documents included social security numbers, dates of birth and paystubs from the shell companies Elite employees or associates created.
The second scheme was a conspiracy to defraud insurance carriers by submitting false claims of stolen vehicles. The defendants allegedly claimed that certain vehicles were damaged or stolen, thereby causing the insurance carriers to release claim money to the policy and lien holder benefitting Elite. In many cases stolen vehicles and/or parts were located in the chop shop storage unit leased by Mahmoud.
The third scheme allegedly involved theft from specialty financing companies who gave Elite short term financing and lines of credit for vehicles in inventory. These specialty financing companies were defrauded through a series of steps including false representations made by Elite management.
“These charges send a clear message that illegal business practices in the form of white collar crime will not be tolerated,” said W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis Office of the FBI.
“The defendants allegedly participated in an illicit organization that affected interstate commerce through the transportation of stolen property, money laundering, mail and wire fraud. In doing so, they utilized the U.S. Mail, which brought to bear the full investigative attention of Postal Inspectors,” said Patricia Armstrong, acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Detroit Division.
We spoke with several people after those raids who claimed the dealership had ripped them off.
Glenn Gay bought a car from the dealership last year, but he says they never gave him money for his trade-in. “I bought a car and they were supposed to take money off the new car for the trade-in and they didn’t give me no trade-in value on the other car,” said Gay.
Chontae Lester says the business failed to properly repair a BMW she bought on their lot.
“They said they fixed my car and charged me 400 dollars and it’s still messed up,” said Lester.
Another customer told us she couldn’t get the proper paperwork for her purchase, including the title from the dealership, leaving her mother furious.
“She’s on a fixed income and you took her money. Now you got the feds here cause you did some illegal stuff. That’s wrong. That’s wrong,” said Regina Jones.
Last year, Tim Maniscalo, President of the Central Indiana Better Business Bureau, said the business had an F rating. “We’ve had a number of complaints over the last several years and what we found with a number of those complaints is, they have just not responded to the complaints,” said Maniscalo.