Third man believed involved in vehicle fraud scheme turns himself in
While a third man sought in an alleged vehicle defraud scheme turned himself in Thursday, a fourth wanted in connection to the case remains at large.
Scott Stephen Friga, 36, of 2518 S.W. 31st Lane, was processed through the Lee County Jail and released on $37,500 bond as of Thursday afternoon. Friga is facing four counts of fraud false statement in title transfer and one count of fraud swindle to obtain property more than $50,000, according to booking records.
“He turned himself in and was processed through,” attorney Spender Cordell, who is currently representing Friga, said. “We deny the charges against him, and he’s looking forward to his day in court.”
Friga had a court date set for Sept. 13.
According to Cordell, Friga was part-owner of a towing company involved in the alleged scheme. He said his client no longer had ties to the business when the reported conspiracy took place.
“The scheme they’re trying to tie him to happened after he sold his interest in the business that was being investigated,” Cordell said. “I think it’s going to come out as a misunderstanding, that he would not have been implicated.”
According to Connie Barron, spokeswoman for the Cape Coral police, a joint investigation by the CCPD’s Property Crimes Unit and the State Attorney’s Office identified several individuals who worked together to defraud lending agencies via vehicle loans. More than $200,000 in loan money was received.
The individuals would reportedly apply for vehicle loans, make a handful of payments and then have a local towing company attach a lien to the vehicle. The tow company would notify the respective lending agencies of a “legal” hold on the vehicle, Barron reported.
When the lending institutions failed to respond, which also was part of the scheme, false certificates of title were obtained. The individuals then took possession of the vehicles and sold them for profit, according to officials. Cape police have recovered several of the vehicles involved in the scam.
Those also accused in the scheme are Bruce Norman Hamlin, 53, of 209 Cultural Park Blvd., S, Apt. B, and Neal Andrew Direnzo, 30, of 45 N.E. 13th Place. Hamlin was arrested and charged at his home Monday, while Direnzo was found Tuesday and placed under arrest, according to police reports.
Hamlin is facing four counts of fraud false statement in title transfer and one count of fraud swindle to obtain property more than $50,000, according to Barron. Direnzo faces one count of fraud false statement in title transfer and one count of fraud swindle to obtain property more than $50,000.
Hamlin and Direnzo were unavailable for comment Thursday.
As of Thursday afternoon, authorities were still searching for a fourth man sought in connection to the alleged scheme. Ismatilla Ubaydullaev, 40, of 951 Poinsetta Lane, North Fort Myers, is wanted on the same charges as Hamlin and Friga.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ubaydullaev is asked to contact the Cape Coral Police Department at 574-3223 or Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at (800) 780-TIPS (8477). If a tip leads to the arrest of the individual, the caller is eligible for a $1,000 reward.