Former car dealership owner sentenced to 11 years for multimillion-dollar fraud scheme in Norman

KOKH - November 6, 2023 3:08 am

On Friday former Norman car dealership owner Chris Mayes was sentenced to serve nearly 11 years in federal prison.

Mayes’ charges include wire fraud, conspiracy, issuing forged securities, aggravated identity theft, and obstruction of justice.

U.S. Attorney Robert J. Troester announced this sentence and also stated that Mayes’ co-defendants, Charles Gooch and Courtney Wells will be sentenced in the coming weeks.

FBI Oklahoma City Special Agent in Charge Edward Gray said “Mayes and his co-defendants orchestrated an elaborate scheme to defraud car buyers and lenders out of millions of dollars by misrepresenting the type, source, and amount of borrower’s down payments and vehicle trade-ins. This long-running conspiracy resulted in significant losses to over 20 financial institutions, while hundreds of borrowers were saddled with debt they simply could not afford. The sentence handed down today should serve as a stark reminder that this level of greed comes with an even bigger price to pay. The FBI recognizes the impact of fraudulent business practices on American consumers, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure predators like Mayes are brought to justice”.

On September 16, 2020, Mayes, Gooch, and Wells were indicted on 25 counts for using their positions as co-owners of the Big Red Dealerships (Big Red Sports/Imports, Big Red Kia, Norman Yamaha, Norman Mitsubishi, and Mayes Kia) to engage in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud in which they attempted to obtain millions of dollars of loan proceeds.

Mayes was the owner of the Big Red Dealerships, Gooch was the compliance officer, and Wells was the financial controller.

The government alleged that each defendant made materially false statements and omissions to lenders about the type, source, and amount of borrower’s down payments or vehicle trade-ins, and bribed at least one loan officer.

In November of 2021, a jury trial was held in Oklahoma City.

During the trial, testimony was heard that the Big Red Dealerships used advertisements to target customers with poor credit. The defendants fraudulently induced lenders to approve loans for such customers by documenting that said customers provided cash down payments and/or trade-in vehicles, which was not true.

Twelve different customers testified about their experiences, as well as former employees and representatives of several lenders.

In some circumstances, the cash down payment was untrue and was referred to as “King Cash” on internal documents.

When these fake payments were discovered by one lender, Mayes sent threatening emails to the CEO of that lender to halt any investigation from occurring.

Evidence also showed that from February 2015 to late 2017, Big Red Dealerships continued to document the aforementioned fictitious cash down payments, and often, these payments were based on items that were allegedly sold to Norman Pawn & Gun, a pawn shop owned by Gooch, and was in a building owned by Mayes.

After the loan proceeds were received from lenders, Big Red Dealership employees generated checks to the customers for the pawned items, forged the customers’ signatures on the checks, deposited the checks in Big Red Dealership accounts, and later fully reimbursed Norman Pawn & Gun for the down payments.

The jury also heard about the falsely documented vehicle trade-ins so that lenders would approve loans.

On hundreds of occasions, the trade-in vehicle was never provided to Big Red Dealerships and a separate transaction was documented-which was not known by the lender-where the trade-in vehicle was resold to the customer for a dollar.

In November 2021 the jury convicted all three defendants of conspiring to commit wire fraud, convicted Mayes and Gooch with 12 counts of wire fraud based on false information sent to lenders for 12 specific customers, and convicted Wells of six of those counts of wire fraud.

In May of 2022, while awaiting sentencing, Wells and her boyfriend Brandon Landers fled to Mexico to avoid incarceration.

Following a manhunt, the two were captured in Oaxaca, Mexico in October 2022.

In June of this year, Mayes pled guilty to two counts of tampering with official proceedings. At the plea hearing, Mayes admitted he helped to convince co-defendant Wells to flee to Mexico, and that he provided financial support for her flight.

In Mayes’ sentencing hearing on Friday, testimony and evidence were presented to the court, including threats to kill a witness who testified at his trial.

Mayes has been sentenced to 130 months in federal prison on his fraud-related counts and 65 months in federal prison for his obstruction-related counts, which will run concurrently.

Mayes has paid over one million dollars in restitution and has been ordered to forfeit profits from the scheme that totals over one million dollars.


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