Phoenix - The Arizona Attorney General’s Office partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to close a fraudulent title loan shop in Phoenix. Six people have been convicted in connection to Garcia’s and Associates LLC, including the company’s owner, who remains at large. The business engaged in the systematic filing of false vehicle liens and foreclosure statements, which supported the criminal activities of human smugglers.
HSI began their investigation in 2011, when agents at the United States and Mexico border noticed that vehicles that had been seized from human smuggling operations were reappearing at the border just days later. The investigation led them to Garcia’s and Associates LLC (located at 1620 W. Buckeye Road Phoenix, AZ 85007) where business operators were catering to the needs of human smugglers by providing them with a reliable way to avoid having their vehicles forfeited by law enforcement after they had been discovered transporting humans or drugs that had been smuggled across the border.
When a vehicle was seized by law enforcement, Garcia’s and Associates LLC would inform the seizing agency that it held a lien against the title of the vehicle as a result of a loan, which would result in the vehicle being returned to Garcia's and Associates as an "innocent owner". The company would then charge a fee for the service of returning the vehicles and avoiding forfeiture. The shop collected $400 to $1,000 per transaction.
Owner Alfonso Garcia, 56, was convicted in Maricopa County Superior Court on felony charges of Conspiracy and Illegally Conducting an Enterprise. Garcia faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections. He is believed to be at large in Mexico and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Additionally, one suspect in connection remains at large.
“We salute the keen observations made by federal agents in this case,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “My office will continue working with HSI to aggressively combat all illegal activity happening at Arizona’s borders.”
The business was convicted of six felony counts including Conspiracy, Illegally Conducting an Enterprise, Forgery, and Fraudulent Schemes and Practices. It was ordered to be terminated and pay a fine of $8,235,000.
“This joint investigation demonstrates the importance of attacking the infrastructure that supports criminal enterprises. By working jointly with the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, we were able to cripple this transnational criminal organization that attempted to avoid our asset forfeiture laws by using a corrupt business owner.” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Matthew Allen.
For more information, contact the Attorney General's Office at (602) 542-5025.