Date: June 17, 2020
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Richmond man was sentenced today to seven years in prison for his role in orchestrating an Autotrader fraud scheme that caused over $575,000 in losses to the victims announced Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
According to court documents, John Baron Royal advertised high-end, luxury vehicles for sale on Autotrader.com, including Range Rovers, Mustangs, BMWs, and Mercedes-Benz SUVs. Royal used aliases to advertise the vehicles for sale and to extract payment for the vehicles from his victims. Ultimately, Royal failed to provide the victims with the vehicles. Unwitting victims agreed to purchase the vehicles from Royal who promised that he would have the vehicles shipped to the victims' desired locations. To conceal his role in the fraud, Royal used a number of aliases, supplied his accomplices with burner phones, and used technology to disguise his voice. When the victims complained about not receiving the vehicles, Royal and others at Royal's direction, sent a series of lulling communications to the victims to convince them that delivery of their respective vehicles was imminent. Royal also directed one of his co-conspirators to impersonate other individuals to communicate with the victims about delivery of a 2015 Range Rover.
In addition to these fraudulent misrepresentations, Royal sent pictures to the victims of fake and fraudulent documentation leading the victims to believe that Royal owned the vehicles for sale when, in fact, Royal did not own the vehicles. To further conceal his role in the fraud, Royal directed a number of other individuals to open bank accounts in the name of shell entities to receive the victims' funds. Royal's fraud was detected after he and an associate falsely reported a vehicle stolen to the Leesburg Police Department. After fraudulently reporting the vehicle stolen, Royal and his associates immediately left their residence in Leesburg and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Intended losses to the victims were more than $575,000.
The investigation leading to today's sentencing was conducted by special agents the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, U.S. Secret Service's Washington Field Office, FBI Washington Field Office, and Leesburg Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamar K. Walker.