A suspect facing 40 charges, 15 of which are felonies, was arrested in Santa Clara, California on a warrant issued out of 5th District Court following an investigation into multiple complaints filed against the suspect alleging he defrauded car dealerships, lenders, and consumers out of nearly $2 million.
Donleavy is facing 10 second-degree felony charges, including one count of communications fraud and nine counts of theft. He also faces five third-degree felony counts of equity skimming of a vehicle, which is either taking in a vehicle for trade-in that has a loan or lien and then failing to pay off the lean or failing to tell the buyer of a financial obligation attached to the car.
Additionally, he was charged with 18 misdemeanor counts of failure to deliver dealer title, as well as two counts of dismantling dealer plates, three counts of failing to pay warranty or service contract and two counts of failure to pay off lien on motor vehicle trade-in.
According to the affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant signed by District Judge John J. Walton on Dec. 15, the charges stem from an investigation initiated by the Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division of the Utah State Tax Commission when an investigator assigned to work in Washington County was tasked with reviewing several complaints involving Elite Auto Credit in St. George.
The cases under investigation involved more than $1.7 million, the investigator wrote.
The first complaint was filed in November 2019 from a dealership in St. George that had been contacted by Donleavy several months earlier about possibly wholesaling vehicles to Elite so they could be sold on his lot. Donleavy explained that he didn’t have time to go to auctions to purchase inventory and was hoping the dealership could supply him with cars to sell at his business.
According to the complaint, the dealership was told that Elite was doing very well and selling a high volume of vehicles and that the owner of the dealership would be paid a commission on every vehicle sent to Elite that was sold. The commission would be paid in payments sent every 30-45 days.
After the initial 45 days, Elite had sold nearly 60 of the dealership’s vehicles, but Donleavy refused to pay the fee for any of the vehicles sold, according to the investigator. The suspect gave “many different excuses as to why he could not pay.”
When the balance owed to the dealership reached $800,000, the report states, the dealership owner, who still had 20-30 cars on the Elite lot at the time, told Donleavy he would not provide the car lot with any further titles to the vehicles until the dealership was paid in full.
The suspect responded by advising the dealership he did not have any money left from the sale of the vehicles and explained to the owner that he used the money they made selling the vehicles to pay off debt but that he would have the dealership paid off within a few months.
The dealership owner decided to allow Elite to sell the cars that remained on their lot in the hopes that Donleavy would make good on his promise to pay them back.
Donleavy ended up selling a total of 90 of the dealership’s vehicles between Elite’s two locations but paid nothing on the more than $1 million owed to the dealership for the cars brokered and sold.
Meanwhile, the motor vehicle division also received a number of complaints from various lenders, banks, and credit unions in St. George alleging that Elite failed to provide the titles to the vehicles that were financed by each of the lenders.
In another complaint, it was alleged that Elite failed to pay for two vehicles purchased at an auction that was valued at more than $100,000.The auction company allowed the dealership to take possession of the vehicles under the agreement the auction would be paid once the cars were sold. The report also states the auction company was never paid even though both vehicles were sold.
Another car broker filed a complaint alleging his company wholesaled 50 vehicles to Elite Auto Credit, but even after all of them were sold the suspect never paid the broker for the cars. And yet another dealership owner alleged he was never paid for 24 vehicles costing the dealership more than $324,000. The investigator also noted that a majority of the sales in question were made at Elite’s Nevada location.
Investigators also received complaints from four consumers who stated the loans on the vehicles they used as a trade-in was never paid off by Elite.
“These customers are still being held responsible by their banks for payments on their vehicles that they no longer are in possession of,” the investigator wrote in the report.
With multiple complaints investigated, the charges were submitted and the case was filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office on Jan. 13. Two days later a no-bail warrant was issued for Donleavy’s arrest.
The active arrest warrant was discovered Friday by a Santa Clara-Ivins Police Officer, Briggs said.
“Once the officer discovered the warrant they went out and picked him up without any problems.”
This is not the only court action filed against Donleavy, but it is the only case involving criminal charges filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
A civil suit filed in September 2019 came to a close in December 2020 and resulted in a judgment filed against the defendant for more than $745,000.
Another civil judgment was signed on June 30, 2020, against Donleavy for more than $191,000, and a civil case filed months earlier is still moving through the courts that involve multiple creditors and similar allegations. Should the plaintiffs prevail in court, Donleavy is facing more than $75,000 in judgments.
While listings for Elite Auto Credit still exist for both St. George locations, the addresses appear vacant and abandoned.
Following Friday’s arrest in Santa Clara, the suspect was being held without bail but has since been released from custody.