Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a Newark, N.J., man pleaded guilty today to carrying out a scheme in which he used false identities and nearly $340,000 in counterfeit or bad checks to buy 19 cars from an online auto auction company.
Keith L. Hutcheson Jr., 27, of Newark, who formerly lived in Paulsboro, N.J., pleaded guilty today to second-degree theft by deception and third-degree forgery before Superior Court Judge Christine Allen-Jackson in Gloucester County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Hutcheson be sentenced to seven years in state prison. He must enter a civil consent judgment to pay $212,000 in restitution to the auto auction company, Copart Inc. The company previously recovered a number of the vehicles, which reduced the amount of restitution owed.
Deputy Attorney General Peter Gallagher prosecuted the case and took the guilty plea today for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Sentencing for Hutcheson is scheduled for June 8.
The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which received a complaint from Copart Inc., which is based in Dallas, Texas. Copart has locations throughout the U.S., including in Robbinsville and Glassboro, N.J. The state’s investigation revealed that from September through December 2013, Hutcheson used the aliases of “Mark Hooper” and “Bassem Wallace” to purchase 19 cars online from Copart.com, including seven Mercedes Benz vehicles, a Porsche and a BMW. He paid for the cars with counterfeit or bad checks totaling $339,782, including a check for $199,023 for multiple vehicles that purportedly was issued by a car dealership. Many of the cars were salvage or storm-damaged vehicles. Hutcheson arranged for the vehicles to be transported to New Jersey, where he resold a number of them in cash sales to unsuspecting buyers.
“Everything about this con artist was a fraud, from the names he used, to the checks he wrote, to the salvage vehicles he sold to unsuspecting customers,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We’re putting him behind bars where his schemes and his bad checks won’t buy him anything.”
“Hutcheson would purchase multiple cars through an online auction and have them transported from as far away as Arizona and Indiana to highway stops in New Jersey, where he would load them onto his own car carrier,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “He used worthless paper to pay for high-end vehicles, and then he sold them for hard cash.”
Hutcheson was arrested by detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice on May 13, 2014, on charges of theft by deception and identity theft. He was released after posting $75,000 bail.
The lead detective for the investigation was Detective Richard Loufik of the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Supervising Deputy Attorney General William Conlow assisted in the investigation. Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission for its referral.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice Web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the tip line or webpage will remain confidential.