OMAHA, Neb. – Scores of new cars vanished from a western Nebraska car dealership and a prosecutor said Wednesday that some had turned up in other states and warrants had been issued for three missing executives.
The 81 Fords and Toyotas taken from Legacy Auto Sales in Scottsbluff were valued at about $2.5 million.
The Fords were put on transporter trucks and taken away Saturday and the Toyotas were shipped out late Monday, John Childress, Scotts Bluff County's chief deputy county attorney, said Wednesday.
Childress said arrest warrants had been issued for owner Allen Patch, controller Rachel Fait and general manager Rick Covello, who are wanted on suspicion of theft.
"Employees were expecting these people to be in Tuesday morning, and they were surprised no one was there," Childress said. "It is not an expected departure."
Covello called Scottsbluff police on Wednesday afternoon and said he would meet with investigators on Thursday, Capt. Kevin Spencer said. The whereabouts of Patch and Fait remained unknown, Spencer said.
Miranda Cervantes, the dealership's title manager, 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.
The FBI traced two dozen vehicles to Salt Lake City, including 16 that had been sold at one auto auction, Spencer said. He said police also found six at the Scottsbluff airport, and the FBI located other vehicles in Las Vegas, but he didn't know how many.
Spencer refuted an earlier report from Childress that some of the vehicles had been found in Arizona.
Justin Leach, a spokesman for Toyota Financing in Torrance, Calif., said Patch financed the Toyotas and Fords through his company.
Legacy has had financial problems, Childress said, and authorities suspect Patch and his associates were looking to sell the vehicles to auction houses and keep the proceeds rather than pay Toyota Financing. He said the three have no criminal records in Nebraska.
All three previously lived in Utah, and the FBI and law enforcement agencies in several western states were searching for them, Childress said.
Leach said there are some provisions that would allow a dealer to move vehicles.
"But if the dealer and the cars go missing, there's an issue," he said.
Most of the missing cars were Toyotas, but Childress didn't have an exact number.
All 81 cars had valid temporary titles, as required by state law, Childress said.
Despite the missing new cars and executives, Legacy Auto Sales remained open Wednesday. Cervantes did not respond to calls seeking additional comment.
Scottsbluff is 470 miles west of Omaha.