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Nine arrested in alleged auto ring involving Miami Beach cop

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Friday the arrests of eight more suspects who along with a Miami Beach police officer are accused of taking part in a white-collar crime ring that defrauded dealerships and financial institutions out of more than $500,000.

Among the arrested: Tomas Manrique, owner of Wachovia Auto Sales; Todd Javon Smith, Jr., owner of Parelelas Motors; and Alexandra Olivera, a clerk at a private tag agency.

According to an affidavit, Manrique, 51, and Smith, 29, ran the scam by recruiting straw buyers to either lease cars that were then illegally subleased, or to secure financing from credit unions for cars that had already been purchased and moved out of the country.

Authorities say that in instances where cars were subleased, straw buyers would lease a vehicle from a dealership and then turn the vehicles over to Smith or Manrique, who would then lease the cars to a third party.

The buyers would sometimes report the cars stolen when they defaulted on their loans, according to the affidavit.

In deals where financial institutions were allegedly defrauded, Manrique and Smith would use their Miami-area dealerships to provide a bill of sale and Olivera, 25, would provide fraudulent titles to help acquire financing, according to the affidavit. The financier would then provide a loan for the vehicle and pay the dealerships directly.

The straw buyers would receive a cut of several thousand for each car they leased or financed, the affidavit states.

The alleged scams involved the purchase or financing of 15 vehicles worth $530,000, according to the affidavit.

The straw buyers, according to FDLE: Shanovia Maria Smith, 26, of Pembroke Pines; Nicholi O’Neil Smith, 37, of Miramar; Francis Elizabeth Hannan, 49, of Lauderhill; James M. Paul, 35, of Sunrise; Dennis Esther Matos Torres, 42, of Miami, Shannon A. Reid, 56, of Boca Raton; and Navarro.

Reid is on the lam, according to FDLE. All others have been arrested.

The investigation sprung from a Drug Enforcement Administration arrest of a methamphetamine dealer who was living with Navarro and driving a vehicle obtained through the auto ring, according to the affidavit. The probe spanned more than a year and included Miami Beach Police and the Miami-Dade Police Corruption Unit.

Filed charges include racketeering, grand theft, fraud, illegal subleasing of vehicles, false statements of financial identity, and obtaining a vehicle with intent to defraud.