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Ohio man pleads guilty to wire fraud

(Associated Press)
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 1:04 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -A man from Belpre, Ohio, has pled guilty to felony wire fraud charges after admitting to selling cars for individuals, often making decisions and using their money without the owners knowledge, then keeping the proceeds from the sale.

In his own words, Ricky V. McLaughlin, 63, owner of McLaughlin Motorcar Museum in Parkersburg said he’s aware of at least six or seven victims and says the crimes occurred between 2016 and 2019.

The case was brought on by the United States Department of Justice, Southern District of West Virginia.

“What a fraudster,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “For more than four years, McLaughlin defrauded multiple customers of a significant amount of money. If not for the efforts of the Parkersburg Police Department, McLaughlin probably still would be ripping off classic car lovers.”

McLaughlin sold collector cars, including various Pontiac Trans Am classic cars to individuals, and customers would send their collector cars to McLaughlin for restoration.  Sometimes customers would buy collector cars from McLaughlin and the Motor Car Museum and then ask him to resell these collector cars at a later date on consignment. McLaughlin admitted that for more than four years, he stole money and defrauded multiple customers through a wire fraud scheme. As part of his fraud activities, McLaughlin admitted he would sometimes sell individuals various Pontiac Trans Am classic cars, but refused to provide the customers with either the titles to the vehicles or the vehicles themselves. At other times, McLaughlin would sell the same Pontiac Trans Am to multiple customers or sell Pontiac Trans Am cars on consignment, but refused to remit the sale proceeds of the collector cars to the car owners.

“I was using other people’s money to keep the company afloat and I did wrong,” said McLaughlin.

In a virtual hearing Thursday morning, McLaughlin appeared to get emotional while describing his crimes to the judge.

The older, classic cars that were often the property of collectors ranged in value from $25,000 to $50,000.

Prosecutors say they had evidence in the form of bank statements, business records, text messages, e-mails and information from federal agents.

When Judge Berger told the defendant he would be responsible for restitution of at least $150,000 he responded by saying “I want that, yes ma’am.”

He has agreed to forfeit all property to the government as part of his restitution.

The Parkersburg Police Department conducted the investigation.  United States District Court Irene Berger presided over the plea hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen Robeson is handling the prosecution.

Over the last few months, several victims have reached out to WSAZ with hopes of getting answers in this case. A few of the victims live in neighboring Ohio and other parts of the country.

Judge Berger announced a $10,000 bond. McLaughlin’s lawyer says he has collected his client’s passport.

He faces up to 20 years in prison, his sentencing hearing will be held March 17th at 9:00 a.m.

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