A Los Angeles man faces up to 20 years in prison in connection with a fraud scheme that turned some people's dream cars into nightmares.
Geoffrey Hull, 41, pleaded guilty to one federal count of wire fraud Thursday in the luxury vehicle lease scam, which resulted in more than $1.5 million in losses, according to federal prosecutors and Homeland Security Investigations.
Hull started numerous businesses, some under aliases, that promised to get individuals out of leases for exotic and high-end vehicles from carmakers such as Maserati and Mercedes-Benz by finding others to take over payments.
At least 128 people were caught up in the scheme between 2016 and 2019. Hull was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2020.
Hull took possession of the vehicles, telling victims that he would make their payments until the lease was transferred, prosecutors said. Hull claimed that he had transferred leases for nearly 150 vehicles and told customers that payments had never been an issue.
One of Hull's "longtime friends" would act as a reference, providing victims with a glowing testimonial of the business, according to the indictment.
But Hull would not make full payments on the leases, if any payments were submitted at all, leaving the victim on the hook for late fees and credit issues.
Additionally, Hull would rent out the leased vehicles, racking up mileage, damage, toll-road fees and parking violations.
Victims who demanded that their vehicles be returned did not receive them in a timely manner. On multiple occasions, the vehicles were reported stolen.
When Hull's customers began leaving bad reviews for the business on websites such as Yelp, Hull would abandon the business' name and restart with a new one.
Hull was sued by multiple customers and was the subject of investigations by CBS Los Angeles.
The wire fraud charge stemmed from Hull's use of email to defraud his customers.
Hull agreed to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution to his victims.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.