Miracle Car Club Bogus Estate Sale Advance
On May 8, 2002, Gwendolyn Baker, aka Gwen Baker, of Memphis,
Tennessee, James R. Nichols of Carson, California and Robert
Gomez of Bell, California were the subject of a 23 count indictment
returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri which alleges
a number of illegal activities including fraud and money laundering.
According to the indictment they obtained approximately $16 million
from individuals throughout the United States for the purchase of
more than 7,000 vehicles that did not exist in a conspiracy that
lasted from October 1, 1998 until the date of the indictment.
The company, which listed Dr. Gwen Baker as the owner, and operated
as Auto Emporium Estate Referral Service, Gwen Baker Estate
Representative, Miracle Car Club and Miracle Cars,
was said to offer auto, furniture and real estate referral services. According
to the company it is one of several representatives for the estate
of a "John Bowers" and that the estate was selling
some 4,000 vehicles at reduced prices in order to reduce the taxes
on the estate.
Because there was a supposed "gag order" issued by a probate
judge no information concerning the actual location of the vehicles
or the vehicle identification numbers could be released, according
to Ms. Baker and the company though the vehicles were to be "released" from
probate on March 25, 2002.
The hook in this particular case is that you have to pay for the
vehicle in advance and you will only get your choice of vehicle once
the "estate" is settled.
Gomez, a professional gambler, allegedly claimed to be the adopted
son of "John Bowers" and sole heir to the supposed estate.
Nichols claimed to be the executor of the "estate". Baker,
who referred to Nichols and Gomez as "godsons", allegedly
distributed lists of automobiles and other vehicles to individuals,
churches, religious groups and other organizations nationwide offering
the "miracle cars" for sale at bargain prices to "reward" people
for their religious faith.
The "solicitations" came in the form of price sheets with
an accompanying descriptive memo to buy luxury vehicles at so called
fire sale prices but had no verifiable facts. One example given
was a 1999 Navigator for $5,000. Individuals have generally
paid amounts from $1500 to $5000 for these so-called "estate" vehicles
to many operations similar to this one across the country.
According to the indictment, of the approximately $16 million taken
in the scheme, some $6 million was returned to individuals who requested
refunds. Of the remaining $10 million, nearly $7 million was transferred
to Gomez through various gambling casinos in southern California.
Nichols allegedly spent more than $250,000 to purchase numerous automobiles
and motorcycles for his own use. Gwen Baker allegedly received $20,000
to $30,000 per month for her role in handling the money from purchasers.
If convicted as charged in the indictment, Nichols and Baker could
each be subject to a sentence of up to 275 years in prison without
parole plus a fine of $7 million. Gomez faces a potential sentence
of 235 years and $6 million fine.
If you or someone you know is a victim in this alleged fraud you
should contact the U.S. Attorney's hotline at (800) 733-6558 and
ask for extension 4231.