12th arrest made in Rock Hill auto fraud

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comMarch 21, 2013 

A 12th person was arrested this week in connection with a Rock Hill car fraud that police say might have conned customers and investors out of thousands of dollars within the past year.

Timothy Levoid Hope, 47, is charged with breach of trust, according to York County court documents. He was taken into custody Monday after turning himself in on outstanding State Law Enforcement Division warrants. He was released the same day on a $1,000 bond.

Last week, Rock Hill Police and the State Law Enforcement Division jointly issued 45 warrants for 12 people in connection with the scheme, in which employees and associates of Big A’s Auto Sales on Cherry Road are alleged to have sold cars that already had title loans to customers.

Customers didn’t realize the cars already had loans on them, police said, until the loans defaulted and title lenders started repossessing the vehicles.

Police started their investigation last May after stopping a woman without a title or tag who said she was working with Big A’s to get both.

Last week, police arrested 11 people, including Bernard Gaston, 47, who police say acted as the “ringleader” of the conspiracy. Big A’s owner, Anthony Neely, who police charged as well, told The Herald he had no idea about the scheme and never signed a title loan, aside from one bill of sale he was asked to put his signature on.

Neely is cooperating with police, turning over paperwork and documents to “get it cleared up,” said Rock Hill Police Detective Mike Chavis.

Rock Hill Police have continued investigating a week after the arrests in the joint case with the State Law Enforcement Division and state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Detectives are still fielding calls from victims, many describing their own experiences with Gaston and his associates, spanning back to when Gaston’s Autos and Team 1 Autos on Saluda Street were still open, Chavis said.

“It’s running the gamut of all the dealerships” Gaston has been involved with, Chavis said, estimating that police have received 30 to 50 calls within the past week.

When police started investigating Big A’s last year, they built their case off the stories of at least 25 victims, Chavis said. Police tracked down vehicle identification numbers and checked with finance companies to find where the paper trail lead.

It all went back to Big A’s.

“Paperwork is the biggest issue,” Chavis said.

Authorities hope to build a stronger case and might file more charges and make more arrests, he said.

Gaston, released from jail on a $40,500 bond, has been charged with disposal of property under lien, permitting the misuse of certificate of title, two counts of obtaining goods under false pretenses, two counts of permitting the misuse of a title, criminal conspiracy and failure to deliver certificate of title.

His wife, Mia Gaston, who is free on $61,000 bond, faces 16 charges, including nine counts of disposal of property under lien and seven counts of permitting misuse of certificate of title.

Also arrested and charged:

• Willie Gaston, Bernard Gaston’s brother, charged with forging or counterfeiting certificate of title and breach of trust; free on $8,000 bond

• Sadie Gaston, Bernard Gaston’s mother, charged with breach of trust and altering, forging or counterfeiting certificate of title; free on $8,000 bond

• Dontay Clifton, charged with obtaining property under false pretenses; free on $3,000 bond

• Tenevia Morris, 30, charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent; giving false information, and altering/forging certificate of title; free on $8,000 bond

• Angela Smith, charged with two counts of altering, forging or counterfeiting certificate of title and two counts of breach of trust; free on $8,000 bond

• Carlos Easter, a former employee at Big A’s, charged with obtaining goods under false pretenses; free on $5,000 bond

• Yvonne Wallace, 50, of Charlotte, charged with obtaining goods by false pretense; free on $1,000 bond

• Alexis Brandon, 28, of Rock Hill, charged with obtaining goods by false pretense; altering, forging or counterfeiting certificate of title; obtaining signature by false pretenses; free on $5,000 bond.

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