A Pennsylvania man who operated an auto dealership in New Jersey charged Russian citizens and others for high-end used vehicles that he never shipped overseas, the U.S. attorney's office charged in a criminal complaint released Thursday.
Sergey Kapustin, of Warminster, Pennsylvania, is charged with wire fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud. According to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, Kapustin used his auto dealership to defraud 140 Russian citizens and steal about $2 million.
According to the criminal complaint, between 2011 and 2014, Kapustin operated Global Auto Group in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and at least one Russian-language website that offered luxury vehicles below market value with a promise the autos would be delivered to Russian citizens.
Numerous prospective buyers wired money for the vehicles, which were typically priced between $20,000 and $50,000, with the expectation they would be shipped to Finland for pickup.
Kapustin often didn't have titles to the cars he was selling, and many were considered salvaged cars, with flood damage that wasn't discernible in pictures posted on his website, the complaint alleged.
Often, authorities said, Kapustin accepted payment for a car then claimed it was unavailable and offer the buyer another car of inferior quality, which required additional charges.
One alleged victim told investigators she wired $36,900 to Kapustin for a Lexus that, unbeknownst to her, had been auctioned off to another buyer. She said she didn't receive a refund.
Kapustin was scheduled to make a court appearance Thursday afternoon in Newark. He was being represented by the public defender's office, which didn't return a message seeking comment.