LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - The Jones County Sheriff's Department said it is "overwhelmed" with the number of calls and visits to the office from potential victims as the investigation into fraudulent activity continues at a Laurel car lot.
Perry Taylor, 60, and Casey Pitts, 33, are charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit fraud through Southeaster Auto Sales on Highway 15 in Laurel. According to court documents, Taylor and Pitts are accused of conspiring with each other and unknown persons to defraud customers, banks and/or financial institutions.
Lt. Robert Little, an investigator with the Sheriff's Department, said this is a "complex" case. According to the court documents, authorities are investigating activity including:
- Falsifying automobile bill of sales and title documents.
- Failing to submit automobile title information to required state agencies and financial institutions in a timely manner in order to disguise fraudulent activity.
- Misleading customers regarding whether vehicles that they purchased had existing liens.
The sheriff's department became aware of the issue when a victim reported the car he traded in a month ago had not been paid off by the dealer. Through public records and state vehicle registration documents, authorities said it was determined that both the vehicle traded in and vehicle purchased had liens on them.
Several cars were removed from the Southeastern Auto Sales lot on Friday. Lt. Little said those cars were all financed through a certain lender and "that lender chose to remove them as soon as they found that SE Auto Sales was committing fraud." Lt. Little said that lender is going to be a victim as well.
Karen Sumrall bought a 2002 Chevy Silverado in March for her 16-year-old son. Sumrall said her experience at Southeastern Auto Sales was simple, working with both Taylor and Pitts.
"It was really good, they had great customer service, they were willing to help," said Sumrall. "They said they had everything I needed right here in the price range we were looking for."
Sumrall said she was shocked when she saw the news on social media of the arrests.
"Oh my god, this is why we are having so much trouble with the vehicle we've had for almost six months and have only been able to drive it for 6 weeks," Sumrall said.
Sumrall said when she brought the truck home, a screwdriver and broken tube was found under the hood. She also said the transmission was leaking fluid and needed to be replaced.
Sumrall said since the purchase, she had to take the truck back to Southeastern Auto Sales to be repaired.
"Great customer service, they just didn't fix the problems they said they were going to fix," said Sumrall. "They got rid of the caution lights, but they didn't fix the problem."
Sumrall said her son is working with Community Bank, the bank Taylor and Pitts suggested he use during the purchase.
"It's even more sad, because I don't make the note on it, my 16-year-old son makes the note working at Popeyes. So, he doesn't have a large income," said Sumrall. "He's been spending his money, almost all of his money, on something he doesn't use."
Lt. Little said issues with vehicles purchased is not being investigating at this point. He said that is likely something that would be considered in a civil matter rather than a criminal matter, what they are focused on at this point.
Because of the influx of contacts and questions, Jones County Sheriff's Investigators are opening the Jones County Sheriff's Department's Training Center – 130 North 12th Avenue – Laurel, MS, the front of the building where the DMV is located. If you have believe you may be a victim of the alleged business practices of Southeastern Auto Sales, LLC – Highway 15 North in Laurel, please come by Tuesday, August 15, 2017 from 1:00pm-5pm or Thursday, August 17, 2017 from 8:30am – 5:00pm. You will need to bring all documentation regarding your vehicle purchase from Southeastern Auto Sales, LLC as well as your identification.
Bond was set at $15,000 for each of the men Saturday. Lt. Little said with the number of victims expected, he was "optimistic" Taylor and Pitts would "help rather than hinder" the investigation. The sheriff's department has requested assistance from state and federal agencies.