DMV Makes Arrests in an Illegal Auto Leasing Scheme

California Department of Motor Vehicles
Media Relations Office
2415 First Avenue, MS F-122, Sacramento, CA 95818
Contact: DMV Media Relations

April 16, 2009

Santa Clara —The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) announced today the arrest of the owner of Auto Management Group (AMG) and his associates for illegally subleasing vehicles, embezzlement, conspiracy, grand theft and interstate transport of stolen vehicles. DMV Investigators arrested Muinchau Pham, the owner of AMG, on Santa Clara County felony warrants at one of his homes in Tustin on April 15, 2009. Pham is being held in Orange County jail without bail. Pham was also booked for an outstanding, 2006 Sonoma County felony warrant for grand theft auto. His associates, Ron Rakeem Jones of Santa Clara and Rakish H. Butani of San Francisco were arrested in March with a bail amount of $50,000 each.

In 2006, DMV Investigators were informed by an employee of AMG of fraudulent vehicle leasing activity performed by Pham. A subsequent search warrant served in 2007 on Pham’s bank records revealed approximately $1 million in deposits and withdrawals in an 18-month period.

Further investigation revealed that Pham would solicit consumers via the internet who were wishing to sublease their vehicles to a third party. These consumers usually were unable to make their payments and were upside down in their loans. Pham would then sublease the vehicle to a subject, usually someone other than that person named as “user” on the contract, for a fee of $5000 to $15,000, and the user was to make the monthly lease payments. Most often, payments were not made and the original owner suffered damage to their credit ratings. The vehicles’ locations and actual drivers were concealed from the original owners. Some of the vehicles were driven out of state and the registration was changed into another name.

The vehicles involved in Pham’s scheme were high end Mercedes, BMW’s, Land Rovers, Bentleys, and Porsches valued at $50,000 to $250,000 each. There have been approximately 45 victims and the total value of all the vehicles Pham received from the victims was in excess of $2.2 million.

Editor’s Note: Northern Area Commander Lilia Duarte of DMV’s Investigation Division, is available for interviews. She can be contacted at (916) 774-4500.

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DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Secretary Dale E. Bonner. The DMV licenses drivers; maintains driving records; registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels; investigates auto and identity-related fraud; and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools.