Ten people, including a Miami Beach police officer, have been charged in an elaborate operation that allegedly ripped off local credit unions.
Investigators said it all involved fake buyers, forged documents and a plan that repeatedly sent cars overseas so they couldn't be recovered.
Miami Beach police officer George Robert Navarro entered a not guilty plea to charges including racketeering, organized fraud, making false statements and illegal subleasing. He has been suspended from his duties.
Police and state investigators say he was part of an elaborate scheme aimed at defrauding credit unions out of $500,000.
Charging documents indicate Navarro went with Marion Mayoli into a Lexus dealership in North Miami and was told by Mayoli to submit a misleading credit application. Mayoli spilled the beans on the operation after federal agents arrested him on a drug charge, authorities said.
Authorities said Navarro never actually took possession of the car, and it was handed over to auto dealer Todd Smith, who sold it. Navarro allegedly defaulted on the loan and attempted to tell police the Lexus was stolen, authorities said. The lender lost over $31,000, but the car was recovered.
Police said on some occasions the cars were shipped out of the country through Port Everglades, but paperwork was allegedly created to make it appear the cars were in South Florida.
On another occasion, police said auto company owner Tomas Manrique allegedly obtained a fraudulent title to a Toyota. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Navarro got a loan for the car that cost the lender more than $37,000. The original owner had shipped the car out of the county and it was never found.
Space Coast Credit union was one of the lenders allegedly defrauded.
Documents indicate that a warehouse near the Palmetto Expressway was the location where Manrique ran his automobile business during the time of the alleged fraud. The owner of the facility told NBC 6 Manrique had moved on to a dealership near the Miami International Airport.
The employees inside the dealership told NBC 6 they weren't aware Manrique was allegedly one of the ringleaders who had been arrested.