CUPERTINO -- A couple was indicted on charges that they used their luxury car business as a front for a scheme that involved exporting vehicles that had been leased by friends and associates, according to federal officials.
According to the indictment, filed last month and unsealed on Thursday, Cupertino residents Yujen Chen and Maria Chen, who operated 888 Auto Corporation on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, face 24 felony charges including wire fraud, international money laundering, exporting stolen vehicles and identity theft.
It states that the Chens are believed to have recruited people they knew to lease vehicles, sometimes paying them $500 to participate. They would then take possession of the cars -- which included models from Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW and Audi -- and promise to make the car payments.
"Instead, the Chens exported the cars, and never paid off the lease obligations," states the U.S. Department of Justice release. "The Chens also used without permission the identities of others to lease cars."
Most of the cars went to buyers in China, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors also believe Yujen Chen, 58, and Maria Chen, 56, acted as vehicle brokers, but would take money from buyers and instead of paying the dealers, would sign the customer up for a lease or financing contract and keep the money for themselves.
DMV documents were altered to facilitate the scheme, according to the indictment. The extent of fraud surpassed $3.3 million.
Penalties for each of the 24 charges range from 2 to 20 years imprisonment and hefty fines, as well as restitution.
The couple was arrested on Wednesday and released to home confinement. Their next court appearance is Dec. 10.
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.