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St. Pete man faces decades in prison for stripping liens from 100 vehicles

The 44-year-old man was convicted by a federal jury in Tampa and could get more than 60 years when sentenced in May.


  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 11:30 a.m. February 14, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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A 44-year-old St. Petersburg man is facing more than 60 years in prison after a federal jury convicted him last week of stripping the liens off titles for 100 vehicles to get clear titles and then reselling them.

Jonathan Daniels was found guilty of four counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was acquitted on two other counts and immediately taken into custody, court records show.

One of his co-conspirators, Ian McGeehan, had pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He agreed to cooperate with authorities as part of his plea.

According to the U.S. State Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, evidence and witness testimony presented in Daniels’ trial showed that he and others worked out a way where they could strip bank liens attached to the titles of the 100 vehicles.

There is a procedure in Florida’s statutes that allows the operators of towing and storage companies to attach liens to unclaimed vehicles and then sell them at public sales, according a superseding indictment filed in July. The operator has to provide notice to the registered owner and any current lienholder, including those who financed the vehicles.

What Daniels and McGeehan did is send fake documentation, including fraudulent certified mail receipts, to local tax collector offices in Florida to make it look as if specific vehicles had towing and storage liens. This let them get clean titles for vehicles that they then sold “to unsuspecting buyers for profit,” authorities alleged. 

The men worked for a towing company in Tampa.

Daniels and McGeehan got the vehicles, according to the July indictment, by running ads online looking for owners who wanted to get out of loan payments. The men would then pay for the vehicles by getting financing using “false and fraudulently-obtained identities.”

After submitting the false paperwork to strip the liens off of the vehicles, they would claim to have bought them at public sales for less than the fees owed and below market value.

“Via these false and fraudulent pretenses,” the indictments says, “the conspirators would and did effectively steal the financial institutions’ and other (lienholder’s) collateral … and sell the vehicles to innocent owners for significantly more than the amounts reportedly paid at the purported public sale.”

According to online court records, McGeehan, who is facing 20 years in prison, is set to be sentenced May 3. Daniel is scheduled to learn his fate the following day.

 

author

Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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