Fired car salesman built house of cards, police say


A car salesman fired for siphoning tens of thousands of dollars from a Detroit-area Stellantis dealership is accused of ripping off dozens of his former customers by pretending that he still worked for the store.

Ricardo Perez, 38, was terminated by Dick Scott Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Plymouth, Mich., last July after managers discovered he had defrauded the store.

Police said Perez then began contacting his past customers and offering them attractive deals for trade-ins and vehicle leases, without telling them he had been fired. He would meet with victims in parking lots to conduct deals, convincing them the open-air meeting was to protect against COVID-19.

Victims would give him their vehicles, thinking they were returning it to the dealership, and Perez would sell it himself. He kept some vehicles as a “rental” to use while scamming others, said Ray Watters, the police chief in Lincoln Park, Mich., where Perez was arrested this month.

“Most of the time, he would take their down payments, a heavy down payment, and tell them there was no payment needed for three months when in fact there were payments needed right away,” Watters told Crain’s Detroit Business, a sibling publication of Automotive News. “What they thought was like a $500 a month payment on their truck was actually closer to $800, and the vehicle they traded in was never traded in. So, then they find out, not only are they three months behind on their new truck, but they’re also behind on payments for the vehicle they thought they turned in.”

Perez would even go to dealerships and sign leases on behalf of victims, police said.

“At some point,” Watters said, “he must have been a decent salesman because he had quite a following.”

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