So you want a luxury car, but don’t have luxury car money. What do you do? You could pull a traditional heist, snatching cars from under a dealership’s nose, but you’re more refined than that — a businesslike, suit-and-tie criminal. No, you need something more conceptual, more convoluted, and more likely to appear on Shark Tank: A series of fake companies that promise lease takeovers on luxury and exotic cars, only to rent the cars out for profit without sending a dime back to the lessees.
At least, that’s what you do if your name is Geoffrey Eldridge Hull and you live in Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles. Hull pleaded guilty to wire fraud after an investigation of his eight luxury-focused lease takeover companies found that he had defrauded at least 128 car owners.
The process was simple. Hull, through his amorphous network of companies, would reach out to luxury car lessees who wanted out of their lease arrangements. Instead of transferring the lease agreements, however, he would just take the cars and rent them out — leaving the original lessees still on the hook for payments.
Lease takeovers aren’t uncommon, and companies pairing people together to make those transactions happen isn’t uncharted territory. The key, it seems, is to have a company that actually does what it says on the tin — or at least has enough venture capital to keep the lights on until someone notices.
With VC backing, you don’t need to make money. You don’t even need to do whatever it is you say you do, at least for a few years. Without it, though, those same points make you a scammer — and put you under a Homeland Security investigation.