Image: Dealership's cars being loaded onto truck
Automobiles from Legacy Auto Sales in Scottsbluff, Neb., are loaded onto a truck Monday night. Some of the dozens of new cars that vanished from the dealership have turned up in other states.
updated 3/12/2009 3:57:53 PM ET 2009-03-12T19:57:53

Police have arrested three executives from a troubled western Nebraska car dealership where 81 vehicles worth roughly $2.5 million — as well as the executives themselves — vanished in recent days.

Legacy Auto Sales owner Allen Patch, 52, and controller Rachel Fait, 37, were arrested separately in Tooele County, Utah, and were being held at the county jail. The dealership's 53-year-old general manager, Rick Covello, was driving one of the missing vehicles when he turned himself in to Scottsbluff police Thursday morning, Capt. Kevin Spencer said.

An arrest warrant affidavit said Fait may have embezzled more than $46,000 from the dealership in Scottsbluff, a western Nebraska town. The three were wanted on suspicion of theft.

About two dozen vehicles missing from the dealership were traced to Salt Lake City, and at least 16 of those had been sold at an auto auction. Six others were found at the Scottsbluff airport, one was found at a Wal-Mart parking lot in Evanston, Wyo., and the FBI found some of the other vehicles in Las Vegas.

Financial problems
Legacy has had financial problems, said John Childress, Scotts Bluff County's chief deputy county attorney. Authorities suspect Patch and his associates were looking to sell the vehicles to auction houses and keep the proceeds rather than pay Toyota Financing. Officials said the three have no criminal records in Nebraska or Utah.

Image: Allen Patch
Legacy Auto Sales owner Allen Patch after his arrest.
Charlie Roberts, a spokesman for the Utah Tax Commission, said Patch owned several auto dealerships in Utah.

The missing vehicles were all Fords and Toyotas. The Fords were put on transporter trucks and taken away Saturday and the Toyotas were shipped out late Monday, Childress said.

Officials said it did not appear the trucking company that moved the vehicles or the businesses that bought the vehicles did anything wrong. The roughly $18,000 in cashier's checks the Utah-based trucking company received were fraudulent.

On Tuesday, a representative for Toyota Financing contacted police to report the vehicles stolen, and two employees of the dealership contacted police that day with concerns, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The Toyota representative also told police that the only reason a car dealer would obtain temporary titles and remove vehicles from the lot, as Legacy did, would be "to run and convert them into cash," according to the affidavit.

Backpack with cash
Miranda Cervantes, the dealership's title manager, showed police documents that indicated Fait had taken more than $46,000 from the company over the past several months. She told police that that she heard the executives talking about Fait taking money from the business and that Fait used to keep a backpack with a large amount of cash at the dealership.

Cervantes told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald she returned to work Tuesday after a day off and found the lot was virtually empty. She said the desks of Patch, Fait and Covello had been cleaned out.

Police also found their Scottsbluff homes empty after the cars were reported stolen and postal officials in Scottsbluff said a form had been filed to change Legacy's mailing address to a post office box in Fort Collins, Colo.

Cervantes has not responded to calls seeking additional comment.

Legacy Auto Sales remained open Thursday despite the missing cars.

Scottsbluff is 470 miles west of Omaha.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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