Another development in the Unique Performance drama, as CBS-11 is reporting that the Farmers Branch PD has finished their investigation and submitted 25 felony charges against Unique Performance to the Dallas County District Attorney. The nature of these charges aren't clear, but they likely have to do with fraud and title washing. We've also learned that the U.S. Secret Service has three suspects. What this all means below the jump.
There have been a lot of claims made back and forth, including the recent news about Unique Performance using prison labor to possibly replace valid VIN numbers. It's unclear what the 25 charges are, but the DA is going to have to determine what is worth taking to a grand jury (though grand juries have a habit of voting in the affirmative) and what's worth starting a case over.
We can debate whether using 13 gallons of Bondo, Taiwanese parts and prison labor is a normal or abnormal practice when building $200,000 cars, but there has to be legal merit to the case. Where this case may have merit is that, in addition to taking people's money and not delivering cars, certain promises or advertisements were likely made about the quality and hand-built nature of the cars. If that's the case, and we assume it is since people forked over all that dough, the DA might have an easy way of proving fraud and deceptive business practices. The prison labor and suspected title washing is a bonus, as there's likely a trail of evidence if it turns out that what they did was in violation of existing Texas laws.
Federal investigators have also submitted cases to the US Attorney's office, giving this case a federal aspect. What federal laws were violated are unclear, though we do know the cars were sourced from other states and brought into Texas, which likely plays into it. The Secret Service involvement, and the claim of three suspects, is interesting. The Secret Service is the law enforcement arm of the Dept. of the Treasury and also has jurisdiction over certain types of fraud, mostly involving the transfer of money.
Either way, there are still many questions to be answered. If we were Unique Performance owner Doug Hasty we'd be worried. We see it as likely that Hasty may be pressured into some kind of plea bargain unless he's 100% convinced of his own innocence or the DA's case is so strong they don't feel like they need to do it. Of course, settling on charges with the Dallas County DA doesn't create an exemption from federal charges.
We'll let you know when the parties involved are formally charged.