Owners of Centralia Used Car Dealership Charged With Multiple Counts of Theft and Fraud From Bank
Jan 12, 2013 (The Chronicle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The former owners of a used car dealership in Centralia are facing criminal charges of felony theft and fraud after Security State Bank alleged that the business stole hundreds of thousands of dollars through bad checks and unpaid loans.
Charges were filed earlier this week in Lewis County Superior Court against 47-year-old Keith Birdwell and his 44-year-old wife Lorinne Birdwell, the owners of Birdwell Auto Sales. They are facing two counts of first-degree theft and three counts of felony unlawful issuance of a bank check. All charges include special enhancements regarding the high-degree of sophistication of the theft. The Toledo couple is scheduled to make their initial court appearances later this month.
The Centralia Police Department announced last November that the couple was under investigation for more than $1 million in fraud and theft after allegedly not paying the flooring loans issued by the Centralia branch of Security State Bank to the dealership for purchase of vehicles at auctions for resale. Court documents also allege that the couple wrote more than $160,000 worth of bad checks to the bank.
According to Centralia police, the investigation began last July when Security State Bank first contacted police about Birdwell Auto Sales not paying back the flooring loans issued by the bank on multiple vehicles. The bank also alleged that the company was lying about the whereabouts of several of the cars owned by the bank.
The Toledo couple owned two car dealerships, one in Lacey and one in Centralia. Both dealerships are now closed.
While the bank alleges the theft began in October 2011, the case against the Birdwells emerged last July after Security State Bank employees began to notice serious discrepancies in its bank accounts, according to court documents. Each time a bank representative would visit the dealership to check on the vehicles owned by the bank, Birdwell employees would claim that the missing vehicles were at another dealership or at a shop.
On July 19, 2012, when a bank employee inspected the Birdwells' car lots, the employee found that 21 vehicles owned by the bank were unaccounted for, according to court documents. Keith Birdwell allegedly told the bank employee various excuses for why the cars were not present.
Five days later, on July 24, a representative from the bank did an unannounced check and discovered that only 10 of the 55 vehicles financed by the bank could be located. The location of the rest of the vehicles are unknown, however, authorities believe the business was selling the vehicles to customers and not paying back the loans.
The loans on these missing vehicles amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to court documents. Shortly after the bank's second flooring check, Keith Birdwell wrote five checks from the business' Twin Star Credit Union account to its Security State Bank account, amounting to $163,750. The Twin Star Credit Union bank account, however, had only had a balance between $25 and $105 for several months.
If convicted, the couple can face up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines for each count of first-degree theft, as well as 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine for the three counts of felony unlawful issuance of a bank check.
The Chronicle's attempts to reach the Birdwells were unsuccessful Friday afternoon as all of the phone numbers for Birdwell Auto Sales as well as the couples' home phone number have recently been disconnected.
___ (c)2013 The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.) Visit The Chronicle (Centralia,
Wash.) at www.chronline.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]