HIALEAH, Fla. – A Hialeah used car dealership owner and an accused accomplice faced charges after police accused them of using a 73-year-old woman’s identity to register and finance three vehicles in her name, leaving her in “financial ruin,” according to an arrest report.
Damian Iglesia-Martinez, 26, was taken into custody at his grandmother’s apartment on Southwest 18th Street Monday.
Christopher Landy Mora, 24, the owner of Realeza Motors, was arrested on March 16, according to a Hialeah police report provided by his attorney.
The dealership is located at 5612 E. Eighth Ave., which, coincidentally, is across from Hialeah police headquarters.
According to the arrest report, the investigation dates back to December, when an insurance investigator contacted police.
The investigator, with National General Insurance, contacted authorities after contacting the victim regarding a crash involving a 2020 Honda Accord that she had taken out an insurance policy on after purchasing it from Realeza Motors, police said.
The problem was, according to the report, the victim knew nothing about the car, the insurance policy or driver or passenger in it at the time of the crash. She told police that she only owned a 2017 Toyota Corolla and had a policy with Geico.
She had never actually bought the Accord and never authorized anyone to buy it in her name, she told police.
She hadn’t purchased a 2016 Ford Mustang or 2018 Chevrolet Malibu either, police said, yet, they were also registered, insured and financed in her name.
Police said Iglesia-Martinez pretended to be the victim’s nephew and Mora, who was also the dealership’s finance manager, signed off on all the paperwork.
They said the loan paperwork falsely claimed that the woman worked at a cell phone store and had an $8,000 monthly income in order to obtain financing.
Police also said Iglesia-Martinez was involved in the crash with the fraudulently-purchased Accord.
According to the arrest report, the woman suffered an “untold amount of emotional and financial damage” from the scheme, including being sued for the crash and having her Florida driver’s license suspended.
The woman told investigators that she’d received a barrage of calls from the finance company, demanding payments be made for the vehicles.
Police said her credit had been “ruined” at the hands of Mora.
Mora and Iglesia-Martinez “had to have planned and had full knowledge of what they were doing,” police wrote, and Mora “knowing(ly) and willfully failed to do his due diligence by verifying the information provided by (Iglesia-Martinez), which was done in furtherance of the scheme.”
Police said the amount of fraud totaled more than $108,000.
According to the arrest reports, Mora and Iglesia-Martinez faced charges of organized scheme to defraud, using identification without consent, first-degree grand theft, scheme to defraud a financial institution and filing a false motor vehicle insurance application.
In a statement to Local 10 News, Mora’s attorney, Edward Tapanes, said his client is innocent and that he was actually another victim of the scheme.
“We look forward to working with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office in demonstrating that Mr. Mora was also a victim of Damian Iglesia-Martinez and others involved,” Tapanes said.
Iglesia-Martinez was being held at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on a $40,000 bond; Mora had bonded out at the time of publication.
Editor’s note: The original version of this article stated Mora was “at large,” based on erroneous information contained in Iglesia-Martinez’s arrest report. Mora had already turned himself in and was not at large at the time of Iglesia-Martinez’s arrest, as documented in another Hialeah police report provided by his attorney. The article has been corrected to reflect that. It has also been updated to include a statement from Mora’s attorney.