ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – In a scam that appears to be so elaborate that other car dealerships in the Jacksonville area have been warned to be on high alert, a thief used another man’s name to purchase, finance and insure a 2015 Hyundai sedan.
The thief used Michael Thomas McKenna’s name at the Hyundai of St. Augustine dealership, signing McKenna’s name on the dotted line and driving off in the car.
No one at the dealership knew the car was stolen until McKenna, a 62-year-old man in Naples, called to complain about a vehicle that had been illegally purchased in his name.
The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida said the scam is very intricate.
“This is probably as sophisticated and brazen (of) a scheme I’ve seen,” said Tom Stephens, president of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida. “Usually, it’s small stuff like credit cards (or) online purchases -- that kind of stuff. … This is sophisticated.”
Perhaps more than one suspect may have been involved, Stephens said.
“So they had (McKenna’s) name and his address and they may have used someone else’s Social Security number somehow,” Stephens said. “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the dealership how that happened.”
News4Jax did just that, but the owner of the dealership would not comment because of the ongoing investigation. News4Jax also called McKenna, but has not heard back.
According to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, McKenna called law enforcement and credit reporting agencies after receiving a vehicle tag and registration in the mail.
“This guy did the smart thing,” Stephens said. “First thing he did was file a police report with local law enforcement. That’s what you have to do to get an identity theft affidavit.”
That report can be sent to credit reporting agencies to dispute charges on a credit report. As for the Hyundai dealership, “They’re victims here obviously too, because now they got a car they don’t have money for. It wasn't sold. It was stolen," Stephens said.
The salesman took a photo of the thief and gave it to investigators.
Detectives said they couldn’t release the photo without compromising their investigation.