Authorities say that the operators of S&L Automotive were collecting, and keeping, money for used cars that they never owned.
In May, Mayfair used car dealer Lawrence Laken asked members of the neighborhood civic association for their support in growing his business, but the neighbors rejected his zoning appeal.
Maybe they had a feeling something wasn’t on the up-and-up.
On Monday, state police raided S & L Automotive Solutions at 6824 Frankford Ave. and arrested Laken, 59, as well as his business partner, Cyrus Scott, 49, on allegations they sold cars for which they didn’t legally hold the titles.
Pennsylvania State Police did not reply to a request for information about the case. But Trooper Bijan Rastegarpanah told 6ABC that Laken and Scott collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from customers under false pretenses.
“They were displaying the cars; they actually never held the title or ownership of these cars,” Rastegarpanah said. “Meanwhile, they are telling their customers that they are the true owners of these cars and taking money from them.”
Laken and Scott allegedly had agreements with other dealers to sell cars from the Frankford Avenue lot on consignment, but did not transfer payment to those outside dealers once their cars had been sold. In many cases, the vehicles were already subject to outstanding loans.
“When I talk with the bank, they put the car in repo status,” Rastegarpanah said. “So this gentleman who thinks he paid $10,000 for a car from S&L, he’s going to have his car repoed by the bank because he’s not the true owner of the car (and) the payments are not being made.”
Laken and Scott were charged with five counts each of deceptive business practices, theft by deception, conspiracy and related offenses. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 7.
On May 15, Laken told members of the Mayfair Civic Association that he needed a zoning variance to expand his auto repair activities at his sales lot. Residents complained that the dealer’s employees have been using a public street outside the lot to work on cars. Laken said he put a stop to the off-site repairs. But MCA members voted against his zoning appeal. ••