Car dealer owner makes first appearance in multiple fraud case

Executive Auto Group, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2013 | Photo by Chris Caldwell, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A St. George man charged by the state with multiple counts of fraud made his first appearance in Fifth District Court Friday.

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Click to enlarge: Status of Hands On Hands Down car contest

Richard “Rabbit” Downward, 42, of St. George, appeared before Judge Jeffery Wilcox Friday at 1:30 p.m. via video feed from the Purgatory Correctional Facility. Downward is accused of multiple counts of communication fraud – second-degree felonies;  one count of a pattern of unlawful activity – also a second-degree felony; and two counts of equity skimming of vehicles – a third-degree felony.

The charges stem from an investigation surrounding Executive Auto Group, Downward’s used car dealership. Agents of the Utah State Tax Commission’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division executed a search warrant at Executive Auto Group on Thursday.

Sgt. Eric McPherson, one of the Division agents, said the warrant was the culmination of six months worth of investigation into the dealership. He also said the Division has been working closely with the Washington County Attorney’s Office concerning the matter.

Executive Auto Group’s business license was revoked by the state and Downward was taken into custody and booked into jail Thursday afternoon.

Charges defined

Communications fraud:  In general, state code describes it as “…any scheme … to defraud another or to obtain from another money, property, or anything of value by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or material omissions, and who communicates directly or indirectly with any person by any means for the purpose of executing or concealing the scheme…”

Penalties for communications fraud depend on the value of the property, money, etc. involved.

Equity skimming from a vehicle: From state code – an individual “is guilty of equity skimming of a vehicle if he transfers or arranges the transfer of a vehicle for consideration or profit, when he knows or should have known the vehicle is subject to a lease or security interest, without first obtaining written authorization of the lessor or holder of the security interest.”

Pattern of unlawful activity: Any potential criminal activity repeated at least three or more times, are not isolated incidents, and share similar characteristics in each incident.

Washington County Deputy Attorney Jerry Jaeger said the County Attorney’s Office doesn’t come across this many fraud charges that often.

He also said many of the cars at Executive Auto Group are bank-owned, and fraud was committed when Downward allegedly sold a vehicle without the bank’s authorization, or issued fraudulent paperwork regarding a transaction. In some cases, the bank has retrieved the vehicles, not from the car dealership, but from the individuals who bought them.

“It’s frustrating a lot of the time for the buyer,” Jaeger said.

Judge Wilcox set Downward’s bail at $90,000. The defense asked if the bail could be lowered but was denied. A bail review hearing has been set for March 7 at 9 a.m.

Ed. correction: March 12, 2013.  This report has been amended to remove erroneous identification of owners and entity previously operating a dealership on the subject property.

McPherson said that the current action is not related to any prior actions involving those parties.

St. George News inquiry concerning any connection between the action against Downward in this report and a Feb. 28 federal action against Jason Vowell, principal of the former Executive Auto Sales, Inc., which operated on the same property, is pending response from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Persons arrested are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Related post

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Christine March 1, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I am so glad they’re all facing charges! Its about … time!!! We sued these guys several years ago for credit fraud and won but the street didn’t do anything. Ironically though, we also sued St George Motorcars for something in the same transaction and they were taken down by the state! Great job prosecutors and detectives!!!

    Ed. ellipsis

  • zoidberg March 1, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    Mori, Chad Sunyich is one of the Sunyich clan, recently named (the clan, not including Chad) in an FTC suit concerning Ideal Financial Solutions. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/chad-sunyich/4/4b4/605 and http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/money/55875786-79/sunyich-font-companies-ftc.html.csp. I wonder if the Sunyich family home evening lessons were mistaken taught from the wrong manual.

  • Mean momma March 2, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Why is there not a story about why Jason Vowell and Chad Sunyich were arrested? I know Vowell is involved in that mess with Jeremy Johnson, but arrested by the DEA? Sounds like an interesting story to me. St. George News should really investigate this and give us the scoop…. Unless of course they are already being paid off by these swindlers…. Wouldn’t surprise me, I mean how else has this not already been reported on?

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic March 2, 2013 at 7:28 am

      It is, Mean momma. We’ve been working on it since Thursday – just haven’t gotten the responses from federal agencies that we’re pursuing yet – believe me, we want to bring that to you as much as you want it. And we will – some stories just take more time to birth. Wait for it?

  • Mean momma March 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Glad you are working on it, but already saw it toay in that other paper…. Maybe you guys will get more dirt then they did?

  • Bully June 21, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Micah Pilkey and Shaun Habibian are the ones that are scamming all these so called “straw people” in Utah, Washington and Las Vegas. These victims are being brought up on charges because of these 2 con men and they have ruined many peoples life in the process. I don’t even understand how they are all out on bail at this point. Pilkey already has been incarcerated and was in violation of his probation by being in Vegas most of the time recruiting people for his phony businesses. B

  • Texas Gal September 2, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    How can we get in contact with someone if we have information about Micah & Shaun. I have some information that I would love to bring to light..

    Thanks!

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