A San Diego man is accused of involving his mother and his step-father along with close to 20 others in a complicated criminal ring where high-end vehicles were purchased, paid off and resold while straw buyers claimed their bank accounts had been hacked.
“I have 30 years with the California Highway Patrol, investigating auto theft for many of those years, and I’ve never seen a case like this,” Capt. James Portilla said Thursday when announcing 21 suspects charged with 275 felony counts.
Bryan Orr, 33, ran companies known as Patriot Financial and Patriot Industries along with more than 50 LLCs known by different names.
Law enforcement officers said Orr directed people he knew including his mother and stepfather to purchase high-end vehicles like Vipers, BMWs and Mercedes along with water craft and motorhomes.
The straw buyer would finance the vehicle but other co-conspirators would pay off the loan through fraudulent bank accounts, officials said. Once the title was delivered, the vehicle would be sold. Then, the co-conspirators who had paid off the car loan would report fraudulent use of their bank accounts leading financial institutions to refund the money. The money was then withdrawn and given to Orr with the co-conspirators keeping a small percentage, officials said.
Portilla said authorities learned about the scope of the scheme after serving a search warrant in July 2018.
They expanded the investigation to include other agencies making it one of the biggest auto theft-related cases in the history of San Diego.
“It blindsided many because of its sophistication,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan.
The 21 defendants formed 54 shell companies and opened more than 45 bank accounts at various financial institutions to run the scheme and launder money, Stephan said.
More than 100 vehicles were identified however, fewer than 20 have been located. Officials said more victims may come forward when they attempt to register a vehicle purchased used.
Orr has lived in Clairemont Mesa and Mission Valley and owned a warehouse in Mission Valley, officials said. He had no criminal background before he was arrested as part of Operation Blindside.
“He’s kind of a chameleon,” Portilla said.
“Orr presented himself and lived his life as a wealthy CEO but in fact he was nothing but an unemployed con man,” he said.
Fourteen suspects were taken into custody in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. One suspect is awaiting extradition from Washington. Six people are still being sought.
Mark Garrett is accused of creating fake websites to help straw purchasers get verified by financial institutions.
Christopher Valdez of Florida, Daniel Ramirez of Los Angeles and Cesar Maldonado of San Jose are accused of creating lines of credit for the straw purchasers.
Orr's mother Amy Orr Phillips, 51, and his stepfather Lance Philips, 54 face charges of money laundering and grand theft in connection with the case.
Two assault rifles described as “ghost guns” were also seized from Orr in the investigation, Portilla said.