Robert McLane pleads guilty to defrauding auto dealer employer

Vermont Business Magazine The United States Attorney’s Office announced that Robert McLane, 36, of Webster, Vermont, pleaded guilty today in United States District Court in Burlington to a charge of mail fraud. U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss released McLane on conditions pending sentencing, which is scheduled for October 31, 2024. 

Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed an information charging McLane with mail fraud. McLane pleaded guilty to this charge today. According to the information, between approximately March 2019 and September 23, 2022, McLane was employed by Formula Nissan, Inc., an automobile sales and service dealership located in central Vermont. 

During this period, McLane served as the Parts Manager and then the Director of Parts and Service at Formula Nissan. In his positions, McLane oversaw the parts and service departments; supervised other employees; and ordered, received, and paid for automotive parts needed in Formula Nissan’s operations. In ordering, receiving, and paying for parts, McLane typically communicated with Formula Nissan’s parts supplier, Nissan North America, using dealer management software. 

Starting around January 2021 and continuing until September 2022, McLane began defrauding Formula Nissan by ordering certain vehicle parts from Nissan North America. Many of the parts McLane ordered were vehicle suspension lift kits. The cost to Formula Nissan of each lift kit was in the $2,300 to $2,900 range. Nissan North America billed, and Formula Nissan subsequently paid, for the lift kits McLane had ordered. 

As part of the scheme, McLane refrained from ordering the lift kits via the dealer management software parts ordering system. As a result of this bypass, the parts McLane ordered were not entered into Formula Nissan’s inventory of parts-on-hand. 

Instead of selling the lift kits for the benefit of Formula Nissan, McLane advertised them for sale on Facebook at prices substantially discounted from their wholesale cost to Formula Nissan. Over the course of the scheme, McLane sold more than 200 lift kits to persons around the United States. Purchasers paid for the lift kits via transfers of funds to a personal PayPal account that McLane maintained in his own name. He shipped lift kits to his own customers by using Formula Nissan’s Federal Express account. McLane then used the fraudulently obtained proceeds for his own benefit. 

As a result of McLane’s fraud, Formula Nissan and its insurance company suffered an out-of-pocket loss of at least $575,000. 

McLane faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to twice the gross loss caused by the fraud. The actual sentence would be determined with reference to federal sentencing guidelines and the statutory sentencing factors. 

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

McLane is represented by Assistant Federal Defender Steve Barth. The prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples.

Source: 6.18.2024. Burlington, Vermont. - The United States Attorney’s Office

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