Limousine Builders Charged in $2.5-Million Fraud Scheme

A federal grand jury has charged the operators of an Orange County company that built stretch limousines with defrauding two Southland banks of at least $2.5 million in a purchase-leaseback scheme.

Victor Bagha, 42, of Orange and John R. Marsella, 44, of Corona del Mar were accused of submitting falsified loan applications from customers who agreed to buy cars from the company and then lease them back to the company.

Authorities said Bagha, an Iranian citizen, frequently used the name Michael Victor Louciano in connection with the business, Nationwide Coach & Manufacturing Co. of Santa Ana, which Bagha closed down in 1984.

The indictment charges Bagha, who apparently was the principal owner of the business, with 32 counts of conspiracy, bank fraud and making false statements on bank loan applications.

Forged Signatures

Bagha is charged with defrauding Mitsui Manufacturers Bank of $1.5 million in loans in 1983 in a scheme whereby Bagha allegedly submitted falsified financial statements and tax returns from individuals who had agreed to lease the cars back to Nationwide.

Bagha also is accused of submitting loan documents with forged signatures to Unified Savings Bank in Northridge and collecting about $1 million in loans in 1984 that went into default within a few months.

The 1983 plan to defraud Los Angeles-based Mitsui Manufacturers apparently worked this way, federal officials allege:

Bagha and Marsella recruited people who agreed to purchase limousines with 100% financing arranged by the two men. Buyers also were promised a $5,000 fee to be paid by Nationwide. Unknown to the borrowers, however, their loan applications "were (doctored) to make them look like millionaires," said Anita Dymant, the assistant U.S. attorney who is prosecuting the case. The bank loans were made payable to Nationwide or to Bagha personally.

Bribe Offers Alleged

Dymant said that the individuals who agreed to the leaseback arrangement apparently were unaware that Bagha and Marsella had falsified their loan papers. Mitsui bank now has pending civil litigation against some of the individuals who signed loan papers for the cars.

Bagha also allegedly offered bribes to loan officers at Crocker National Bank in an attempt to get them to participate in a similar scheme, but he was rebuffed, officials said.

Dymant said that Bagha was arrested when he allegedly attempted to bribe an FBI agent who was posing as a loan officer for First Interstate Bank.

Bagha and Marsella are scheduled for arraignment before a U.S. magistrate in Los Angeles on March 10. Bagha remains in jail under $250,000 bond, and Marsella is free pending the arraignment.

If convicted, Bagha faces 71 years in prison and fines totaling $170,000. Marsella, who was named in 17 counts, faces 39 years in prison and $95,000 in fines. Both men also could be ordered to make restitution, Dymant said.

Neither Bagha nor Marsella could be reached for comment.

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