Two Somerset Residents, Six Others, Indicted In Connection With $500,000 Car Theft Scheme

Shanel Terry, left, and James Tutt were among eight people indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges. Photos: State Attorney General.

Two township residents were among eight people indicted on a variety of conspiracy and money laundering charges related to the alleged theft of cars and car loans worth more than $500,000.

James Lamont Tutt, 43, and Shanel Terry, 35, were among those indicted by a state grand jury June 26. Also indicted were David L. Dunaway, Jr., 42, of Irvington; Paige E. Hunt, 26, of Bloomfield, and David Terry, 34, of Newark, according to a press release from the state Attorney General’s Office.

Tutt and Shanel Terry are in a relationship, and David Terry is Shanel Terry’s brother, according to the release.

The five were indicted on charges of 1st Degree Conspiracy, 1st Degree Money Laundering, 2nd Degree Identity Theft, four counts of 2nd Degree and one count of 3ed Degree Theft by Deception, 3rd Degree Tampering with Public Records, and 4th Degree Forgery, according to the press release.

According to investigators, the five allegedly purchased, or had others purchase, vehicles on credit. They would then allegedly forge letters purporting to be from the creditor, saying that the loans had been satisfied. Next, they would use those letters to get new, lien-free titles on the vehicles from the Motor Vehicle Commission.

The vehicles were then sold without disclosing the existence of the liens, according to the release.

Additionally, Caprice L. Simmons, 27, of Rahway, and Rahmeen A. Reason, 30, of Newark., face charges of 3rd Degree Theft by Deception and Tampering with Public Records.

According to the release, Simmons and Reason allegedly provided false employment and income information to obtain a loan to purchase a 2013 BMW 650 from Tutt at the dealership where he worked. After the couple had trouble making the loan payments, they allegedly assisted Tutt in submitting false documents to the MVC to remove the lien, so Tutt could sell the car again.

Robert Rivera, 22, of Newark, is charged with 3rd Degree Theft by Deception, according to the release. Dunaway allegedly had one of the women he deceived in connection with car purchases sign the vehicle over to Rivera. Dunaway and Rivera then allegedly sold the vehicle without disclosing that there was a lien on it.

The group is alleged to have conducted a four-year campaign, from June 2012 to march 2016, involving at least 25 vehicles, according to the release.

According to the release, the eight allegedly used three methods to purchase vehicles:

  • A member of the conspiracy – either Dunaway, Hunt or David Terry – allegedly purchased the vehicle with a car loan that was fraudulently obtained using false employment and salary information, resulting in theft of the loan amount.
  • The defendants allegedly used a stolen identity to obtain a car loan and purchase the vehicle, resulting in theft of the loan amount.
  • Several innocent women were allegedly duped by Dunaway into purchasing vehicles on credit in their own names, with an agreement that Dunaway – who feigned romantic interest in the women – would make the loan payments. The women were then deceived into believing Dunaway had paid off the loans, leading them to apply for and obtain duplicate vehicle titles without liens. Convinced the vehicles were entirely paid for by Dunaway, the women either signed the vehicle over to one of the defendants or the vehicle was sold with the proceeds going to one of the defendants. In this scenario, the vehicle was effectively stolen from the woman, who remained responsible for the loan.

A number of the vehicles were purchased from a now-defunct car dealership in Rahway that employed Tutt as a salesman.

“The five lead defendants in this case allegedly were prolific con artists who managed to steal loan proceeds and cars worth well over half a million dollars in the span of just a few years,” sate Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said in the release. “We’ll aggressively prosecute anyone who engages in this type of white collar crime, which hurts commerce and honest borrowers, who must pay higher rates because of such fraud.”

“Those who fraudulently obtain titles and other official documents from the MVC frequently are involved in identity theft and other criminal activity, such as the elaborate conspiracy charged in this case,” Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said in the release. “When the MVC identifies suspicious activity through its audits, we stand ready to investigate and charge those responsible.”

“This investigation reaffirms the value of motor vehicle documents and the need for the MVC to maintain the security and integrity of its operations,” Motor Vehicle Commission Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said in the release. “Complacency is not an option, which is why we continue to invest in technology, training and internal controls that help us to identify and crack down on criminal activity.”

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. The investigation began with a referral from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) Division of Security, Investigations and Internal Audit, according to the release.

First-degree crimes carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and fine of up to $200,000. The charge first-degree money laundering carries a fine of up to $500,000, and an additional anti-money laundering profiteering penalty of up to $500,000 or three times the value of any property involved. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

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