Used-car lots manipulated for bank fraud scam by business operator, feds claim
FLINT, MI — A Flint-area man is facing federal charges after authorities claimed he used local car dealerships to organize a bank fraud scheme.
Edward Frank Usewick III pleaded not guilty Nov. 19 in Flint U.S. District Court after he was arraigned on bank fraud and conspiracy charges following the unsealing of a 20-count federal indictment.
Usewick’s attorney, Steven Fishman, declined to comment on the allegations.
Federal prosecutors allege the scheme began in December 2011, when Usewick and an unidentified co-conspirator entered into an agreement with the owners of Suski Chevrolet-Buick in Birch Run to operate a string of used car dealerships around the Flint area using the Suski name.
Andy Suski, president of Suski Chevrolet-Buick, could not be reached immediately for comment on the case.
Suski announced in January 2014 that he was shutting down his five used car dealerships in the Flint area, citing management problems. Suski told The Flint Journal previously the Suski Used Car dealerships were being operated by five limited liability companies registered to Usewick’s wife, Cheyenne Usewick.
Cheyenne Usewick could not be reached for comment. She is not facing any criminal charges in connection to the alleged scheme. Her attorney, Frank J. Manley, said he is aware of the investigation.
Suski was the dealership license holder for the Suski Used Car lots, state officials previously told The Flint Journal. He and his business partner received a payment for each car sold at Suski Used Cars, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors allege Edward Usewick used the Suski Used Car dealerships to secure a revolving line of credit from Ally Financial, which was to be used for obtaining money to purchase vehicles for later re-sale. Court records show the financing typically involved lenders releasing additional funding to the dealerships once it received a title showing the dealership had purchased a vehicle.
Usewick allegedly began submitting vehicle titles to Ally Financial in September 2013 for cars he claimed to have purchased in exchange for money that was deposited into a bank account operated by Usewick, according to the indictment.
However, prosecutors claimed Usewick never actually purchased the vehicles and the titles contained fraudulent title numbers.
Prosecutors alleged Usewick submitted 19 fraudulent titles for vehicles between Sept. 26 and Dec. 3, 2013. The indictment does not identify how much money Ally Financial allegedly provided Usewick for the vehicles.
A Secretary of State spokesman previously told The Journal that Suski voluntarily surrendered the dealerships’ licenses and that an investigation was being launched into the dealerships after multiple consumer complaints.
The spokesman said in January 2014 the state decided to take action after receiving “a few complaints that dealt with title work.”
The Suski used car lots were located at 205 S. Dort Highway, Flint; 16555 Silver Parkway, Fenton; 7401 Clio Road, Mt. Morris; 1640 Lapeer Road, Lapeer; and 15133 North Holly Road, Holly.
Complaints were not filed against Suski’s dealership in Birch Run.
Suski and the Usewicks currently have lawsuits pending against each other in Genesee Circuit Court.
The indictment was not the first time Usewick was accused of being involved in a used car scam.
Usewick and three other people were charged with racketeering and various other crimes in 2010 after he allegedly acquired vehicles from a Massachusetts-based leasing company and sold them through a Flint car auction using duplicate titles.
Authorities alleged the leasing company that provided the vehicles to Usewick never was paid for the cars.
Usewick pleaded guilty in February 2011 to six misdemeanor counts of producing fraudulent titles for the commission of a crime. He was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay restitution.
Court records show the case was eventually closed in September 2013 — just weeks prior to when the most-recent fraud accusations allegedly began — after Usewick satisfied the terms of his restitution order.
Usewick was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond. A jury trial is scheduled for Jan. 25.