Updated at: 02/12/2013 3:08 PM
By BILL DRAPER
(AP) KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A suburban Kansas City automobile dealer used personal information from customers and others who filled out credit applications to receive more than $1 million in fraudulent car loans, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said Tuesday.
Terry Lee Morrow Jr. stole the identities of at least 44 people through car a dealership in Missouri before moving to Illinois and creating another dealership, Koster said at a news conference. In Missouri, Morrow used personal information he gleaned from customers and people who filled out online credit applications on Edge Auto’s websites to obtain $1,036,522 in fraudulent car loans that he then sold to auto finance companies for more than $470,000 in cash, Koster said.
Koster said he believes there are more victims investigators haven’t found. Since Missouri filed charges against Morrow last week, investigators have found evidence that he created a sham car dealership in Kansas City using forged documents to make it appear the business was owned and operated by one of his Edge Auto victims, Koster said. The address he used for the dealership would have placed it in the Missouri River, Koster said.
The Missouri attorney general’s office began investigating last year after a woman found a fake car loan on her credit report. Koster said that by the time his office got involved, Morrow had moved to Illinois and created Silver Star Motors in Cortland.
An Illinois customer also found a fraudulent car loan on his credit report and contacted authorities, who caught Morrow as he was attempting to leave that state, Koster said. Morrow was charged in DeKalb County with identity theft and is awaiting extradition to Missouri.
Morrow, 25, of Streamwood, Ill., was charged last week in Jackson County with 17 felony counts stemming from loans he received at Edge Auto Sales, a car dealership in Independence and Blue Springs. Additional felony charges are likely, Koster said.
The Jackson County prosecutor’s office said it didn’t know if Morrow had obtained an attorney in Illinois. Offices in DeKalb County, Ill., were closed Tuesday for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which is a state holiday in Illinois.
Koster said his office has worked with the financing companies that bought the fraudulent loans to have them removed from victims’ credit reports. He said Morrow used fake addresses on the loan applications.
"Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing scams in the United States, but perpetrators can be elusive and are notoriously difficult to track down," Koster said. "The scope of this alleged identity theft scam was enormous, and it is gratifying to hold the perpetrator accountable."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)