Crime

Trusting these Miami Beach used car sellers cost buyers $1.2 million, prosecutors say

The website federal prosecutors say two Miami Beach residents used to rip off used car buyers
The website federal prosecutors say two Miami Beach residents used to rip off used car buyers

A federal court indictment says two Miami Beach residents modernized untrustworthy used car sales by selling used cars online to 51 customers, then not producing the cars — and keeping $1.2 million.

That would be scored as wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which are the charges hanging over 46-year-old Merkourios Alexopoulos and 32-year-old Sabrina Schnekker.

According to the indictment, the website of the alleged fraud is Salvageworldauctions.com, a website whose About Us page says its parent company is Insurance Auctions, Inc. State of Florida records say Insurance Auctions president Merkourios Alexopoulos registered the company to do business in the state in March 2017.

(Perhaps ironically, salvageworldauctions.com also has a “Why Trust Us?” page)

Insurance Auctions, Inc. is one of seven companies listed in the indictment as being shells run by Alexopoulos or Schnekker. State records say two other now-inactive companies the indictment lumps in with those seven, Online Insurance Auctions and Insurance Auctions, LLC, were run (on paper) by Georgios Alexopoulos out of Fort Lauderdale.

As described in the indictment, the alleged scam is rather two-dimensional.

“Potential buyers would pay a $500 entrance fee to bid on the vehicles purportedly for sale. Once a bid was accepted, the buyer would then receive an e-mail with instructions on how to finalize the purchase of the vehicle, and the buyer would then send a wire transfer or cashier’s check in exchange for the delivery of the vehicle.”

That money would go into a shell company’s bank account. And Alexopoulos and Schnekker “would use those monies to pay their personal expenses and to further their fraud.”

The two “never delivered, nor did the victims receive, the vehicles ordered and paid for by the victim purchasers from Alexopoulos and Schnekker through Salvageworldauctions.com.”

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