A Schererville auto dealer was one of 11 people charged in Operation Sweet Ride, a 10-month investigation of a car loan scheme that authorities said defrauded a bank of almost $300,000.
Ahmad Zaghloul, 32, of Orland Park, was charged with organizing a continuing financial criminal enterprise and financial institution fraud, said Tandra Simonton, a Cook County state's attorney's office spokeswoman.
Police said Zaghloul used a Schererville car dealership and joined 10 other people in the scheme that involved loans for luxury vehicles that did not exist or were legitimately owned by other people.
All 11 facing are scheduled to appear Sept. 7 in Cook County court in Chicago, Simonton said. Bond was set Friday at $100,000 for Zaghloul.
The "Sweet Ride" investigation culminated with simultaneous raids Wednesday. Investigators from the Cook County Sheriff's Department, local, state and federal agencies descended on Zaghloul's Diamond Auto, 7415 Lincoln Highway, Schererville, in addition to dealerships in Chicago and Bridgeview.
In addition to the 11 arrests, investigators seized four vehicles, a suitcase filled with $30,000, computers, documents and a shotgun during the raids on homes and the dealerships, police said.
"In financial cases, there is a tremendous amount of digging through documents," said sheriff's spokeswoman Penny Mateck. "The paper trail is what presents the case."
Schererville police assisted the FBI with a portion of investigation, but were not part of the raids, Mateck said.
The investigation began in October when State Farm Bank investigators learned one of the arrested men had fraudulently obtained an auto loan, police said.
Ten other loans also were found to have questionable ties to the original loan and its applicant, police said.
Police said the scheme worked like this:
The offenders presented themselves as the purchaser of a new or used high-end luxury vehicle -- such as a Mercedes Benz, Jaguar or BMW -- from one of three auto dealerships. The owners of the dealership would complete the loan paperwork, apply to State Farm Bank and receive the loan.
However, State Farm Bank did not receive the vehicle title after requesting the documentation from the dealer. Some of the dealerships didn't have possession of the vehicles, and in some instances, the vehicles did not exist or were legitimately owned by other people.
The loans ranged from $18,000 to $40,000. In all, 11 loans were obtained, totaling $298,000.