OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A former Norman car dealership owner has been sentenced to nearly 11 years in federal prison after being found guilty of numerous charges, including forgery, fraud and obstruction of justice.
Bobby Chris Mayes, 51, was sentenced to serve 130 months in federal prison after being convicted of wire fraud, conspiracy, issuing forged securities, aggravated identity theft and obstruction of justice.
“The extensive deception and manipulation employed by Mr. Mayes in this fraud scheme continued after his conviction in seeking to deceive and manipulate his co-defendants and even the Court,” said U. S. Attorney Robert J. Troester. “[Mayes’] sentence demonstrates that schemes to defraud will eventually be revealed and severe consequences will be imposed. I commend the outstanding work done by both investigators and prosecutors in this case.”
On Sept. 16, 2020, a federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging that Mayes, Charles Gooch, and Courtney Wells used their positions as co-owners of the Big Red Dealerships to engage in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud from January 2014 to March 2019.
The indictment alleges that the defendants made false statements and omissions to lenders about the type, source, and amount of borrowers’ down payments or vehicle trade-ins, and bribed at least one loan officer.
During the trial, the jury heard testimony that the Big Red Dealerships used advertisements to target potential customers with poor credit. It also heard that Mayes, Gooch, and Wells then fraudulently induced lenders to approve loans for those customers by documenting that the customers provided cash down payments and traded in vehicles when that was untrue.
The jury heard testimony that in late 2014, one lender discovered those fake cash down payments and Mayes emailed threats to the CEO in an effort to stop the lender from further investigating.
From 2015, to 2017, federal prosecutors say at least 519 customers had their down payment based on a pawned item provided to Norman Pawn & Gun, a pawn shop owned by Gooch. However, it was never open for business and never had any employees.
After loan proceeds were received from lenders, Big Red Dealership employees generated checks to the customers, forged the customers’ signatures on the backs, deposited the checks in Big Red Dealership accounts, and fully reimbursed Norman Pawn & Gun for the purported down payments.
On at least 542 occasions, a vehicle was never provided to the Big Red Dealerships, but a trade-in was listed on loan documents.
Also, officials say at least one lender approved loans for up to two to three times the value of vehicles being purchased after a manager gave cash bribes to a loan officer and the dealership provided fake invoices to justify the inflated prices.
The jury convicted Mayes, Gooch, and Wells of multiple counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, issuing forged securities, and aggravated identity theft in 2021.
Following the trial and while awaiting sentencing in May of 2022, Wells and her boyfriend, Brandon Landers, fled to Mexico to avoid incarceration.
Following a manhunt for the two fugitives, they were captured in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, in October of 2022 and were returned to the United States.
On February 17, 2023, Mayes was indicted and charged with three counts of tampering with official proceedings.
The government alleged Mayes orchestrated and helped to secure the unavailability of Wells in the proceeding, fabricated e-mails and other evidence in an effort to secure a new trial in that prior case, and sent an anonymous e-mail to the Court as part of his effort to obtain a new trial.
On June 23, 2023, Mayes pled guilty to two counts of tampering with official proceedings. At the plea hearing, Mayes admitted he had helped to convince co-defendant Wells to flee to Mexico while they were awaiting sentencing and that he provided financial support for her flight.
Based on the new allegations, Mayes was ordered to be detained pending sentencing.
On November 3, 2023, U. S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot sentenced Mayes to serve 130 months in federal prison on his fraud-related counts and 65 months in federal prison for his obstruction-related counts, to run concurrently.
“Mayes and his co-defendants orchestrated an elaborate scheme to defraud car buyers and lenders out of millions of dollars by misrepresenting the type, source, and amount of borrower’s down payments and vehicle trade-ins. This long-running conspiracy resulted in significant losses to over 20 financial institutions, while hundreds of borrowers were saddled with debt they simply could not afford,” said FBI Oklahoma City Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Gray. “The sentence handed down [Nov. 3] should serve as a stark reminder that this level of greed comes with an even bigger price to pay. The FBI recognizes the impact of fraudulent business practices on American consumers, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure predators like Mayes are brought to justice.”
Mayes had already paid $1,160,825.72 in restitution. Mayes was also ordered to forfeit profits from the scheme in the amount of $1,018,322.17.
Gooch and Wells will be sentenced for their roles in the coming weeks.
Landers pled guilty on December 6, 2022, to conspiring to tamper with official proceedings based on his involvement in helping Wells flee to Mexico. He is awaiting sentencing.