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Cops bust black market Mercedes ring based in Bergen

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

They used others’ IDs to buy a fleet of Mercedes sedans, then falsely registered the cars in New Jersey with bogus financing. The ringleader sold the luxury cars on the European black market at a super markup. Their home base? Hasbrouck Heights.

he accused ringleader, 47-year-old ILYA IGDALEV of Cresskill, laundered more than $1.1 million in proceeds while orchestrating the massive fraud, said Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli. But what makes this case different are the numbers of people who agreed to help move the cars in exchange for payoffs.

“This type of fraud goes on daily,” Molinelli said. “But we have not seen this high a level of public theft and deception and the unlawful involvement of so many co-conspirators.”

Of more than two dozen charged, several are locals: JONATHAN DERMON , 21; VITALI VASILYEV , 38, Closter; AMI MESIKA , 43, Tenafly; and GEORGE SIKORA , 42, Oradell. Others are from Passaic County, as well as other parts of New Jersey, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Ilya Igdalev

(Click here for: Names and charges in black-market car ring bust )

Igdalev, who owned and operated two wholesale car dealerships, faces the most serious charges, including being an organized-crime leader, conspiracy, money laundering, and a variety of tax fraud counts.

When the probe began in March 2008, investigators focused on Igdalev, the owner and president of two wholesale car dealerships: Gemp, LLC, and Best Buy Car Company.

Gemp, LLC already had been black-listed for buying the cars in the U.S., then shipping them overseas for sale at a substantial markup, in violation of its contracts with Mercedes Benz, the prosecutor said.

But that didn’t stop Igdalev, Molinelli said: He gave a slew of “straw purchasers” personal identifying information he stole from previous customers to buy more cars, then passed forged title and registration documents at several motor vehicle agencies throughout the state, listing the cars as limousines.

Igdalev exported the vehicles to Russia, Poland, Turkey and elsewhere, to be sold on the European black market.

Used cars were on the block as well: Igdalev simply rolled back the odometer mileage, Molinelli said.

Investigators busted into Gemp, LLC’s Railroad Avenue office in late June of last year. They also hit Igdalev’s 10th Street home in Cresskill, and a related business in Manalapan known as All City Transportation.

All City Transportation’s owner Ronni Raphaelov had his Manalapan home searched, as well. Detectives also snatched up two safe deposit boxes held by Gemp, LLC.

Altogether, they seized 28 high-end vehicles and roughly $750,000 in illegal proceeds, Molinelli said.

During their search, investigators turned up records that “revealed that Igdalev was also involved in large scale auto loan application fraud, New Jersey Sales Tax evasion, and money laundering,” Molinelli said.

At least $890,000 was stolen from various lending institutions through bogus loan applications, the prosecutor said.

To qualify, “Igdalev and many of his customers would submit fictitious information pertaining to their income earned and rental properties,” Molinelli said.

Igdalev also shorted New Jersey of nearly $100,000 in sales taxes by issuing bogus bills of sale from a Minnesota-based dealership, he said. He collected, and then pocketed, the money, the prosecutor said.

Molinelli credited Minnesota State Police for their participation in the probe.
Closer to home, he cited: Hasbrouck Heights Police; Manalapan Police; the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and the NJ Division of Taxation.

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