WANTS YOU TO ROLL:
The $21 Million "Miracle Cars" Scam - How Two Boys Fleeced America's Churchgoers
By John Phillips III
An endlessly engaging, well-written tale of true crime, again proving that P. T. Barnum was righter than he knew.
Car and Driver editor-at-large Phillips offers an entertaining account of the scam dreamed up by two California teenagers. Phillips tells how, in 1994, 18-year-old James Nichols and 19-year-old Robert Gomez, who met while working as security guards, concocted their fraud. Passing himself off as the heir to a $400 million fortune, Gomez convinced the congregation of Nichols's African-American parents' church that he wanted to give away hundreds of cars from his late father's corporation, Miracle Cars, to needy fellow Christians. Recipients would advance about $1,000 to cover expenses, until the estate was settled and the autos could be shipped. The response was, needless to say, so positive and profitable that the young men expanded their operations across the country, netting $21 million. Gomez, a compulsive gambler, laundered the proceeds through casinos. When complaints from consumers who never received their cars sparked an inquiry by a Missouri police chief, the conspiracy came to an end in a federal courtroom, where Gomez and Nichols (who have had a falling-out) were sentenced to long prison terms...this story is a page-turner.