- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Four local men who operated two used-car lots in Indianapolis have been accused of using their business to run a criminal enterprise.

United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler said 26-year-old Hamza Dridi, 28-year-old Issa Kayyali, 23-year-old Mahdi Kehlifi and 39-year-old Mohamed Noshi Mahmoud have been charged with several federal crimes including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Investigators said Mahmoud was the principal leader and manager of Elite Enterprise, which operated two used car dealerships and several “shell” companies in Indianapolis. He is accused of telling employees to engage in activity that helped his criminal acts.

Kehlifi was a managing sales associate involved in the dealership’s day-to-day operations. Kayyali was a sales associate, and Dridi was the service manager and mechanic in charge of a chop shop the dealership used to disassemble vehicles believed to be stolen.

The federal indictment explains three fraud schemes the owners and operators of Elite are accused of carrying out, including using fraudulent documents to underwrite the purchase of vehicles on behalf of its customers.

The other schemes involved submitting false claims of stolen vehicles and theft from specialty financing companies who gave Elite lines of credit and short-term financing for vehicles in their inventory.

“As is so often the case in these fraud cases, the ultimate victims are the ones that can least afford it,” Minkler said in a statement. “Elite Motors abused processes in place that would allow citizens with subprime credit to get back on their feet through legitimate vehicle sales.”

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