NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Eighteen people have been indicted in a “complex and sophisticated” auto loan scheme in Queens following a three-year investigation, officials announced on Thursday.

The defendants in this large fraud ring are accused of buying 50 expensive vehicles, including Maseratis and Porsches, from dealerships in Queens by using straw purchasers.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports

Prosecutors said 12 of the accused scammers used “straw borrowers” with good credit scores to take out $1.9 million in loans in exchange for $2,000 in kickbacks.

Once the vehicles were turned over to other criminals, the cars were then either sold or rented out on the black market. In other cases, officials said the cars’ titles were “washed” out of state and sold to dealers or at auction.

The defendants apparently promised to repay the loans but instead quit making payments after three installments and left the straw buyers holding the bags and their good credit ruined.

“These individuals wound up with ruined credit, multiple banks suing them for money, and suspended driver’s licenses for unpaid parking tickets on vehicles they allegedly ‘own,’” District Attorney Richard Brown.

In a similar scheme, nine others are accused of getting more than $180,000 in fraudulent loans by using straw borrowers to take out bank loans for buying used cars or making home repairs. Prosecutors said in actuality, no vehicles were purchased and no home repairs were made.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports: New Twist, Old Scheme

Sixteen people have been arraigned in Queens Supreme Court on enterprise corruption, grand larceny, conspiracy and other charges. Two suspects are still being sought.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said 23 of the vehicles have been recovered.

“One of them, a 2008 Porsche high-end, was used in the 2008 homicide of two suspected Nigerian fraudsters who had crossed one of the principals in this case,” Kelly said.

The body of one of those victims was found in the trunk of that Porsche.

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