US Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico, Aug. 24, 2022

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, announced today that Rick Benavidez, 47, of Albuquerque, was sentenced in federal court to five years and three months in prison for leading and organizing two auto loan fraud schemes involving a total intended loss of more than $1.5 million.

Benavidez pleaded guilty on April 29 to two counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of making fraudulent returns, statements or other documents. In his plea agreement, Benavidez admitted to conspiring with his co-defendant, Damian Maron, 41, of Albuquerque, to carry out a loan fraud scheme against federally insured credit unions in Bernalillo County. Benavidez and Maron convinced lower-level members of the conspiracy to apply for loans totaling $359,662.97. Benavidez gave the loan applicants false pay stubs overstating their income to improve the likelihood of loan approval. Benavidez, Maron and their co-conspirators did not actually use the proceeds of the loans to buy vehicles. Instead, they arranged for the lenders to disburse the loan funds to a fictitious auto dealership. The co-conspirators then divided the proceeds of the fraud and used the money for their own personal benefit.

Benavidez also admitted to taking part in a separate auto loan fraud scheme involving an intended loss of $1,154,493.42, of which $999,993.42 was actually disbursed by financial institutions. Benavidez agreed to make restitution to the victims of his crimes in an amount to be determined at a separate hearing. Benavidez must complete a five-year term of supervised release following his imprisonment.

Read more.