Women caught in 'miracle' car deals

Friday, October 24, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two women were sentenced to federal prison terms for their roles in a nationwide phantom car scheme that garnered more than $21 million over four years.

Four people had been charged in Kansas City in the scam that promised to sell cars at bargain prices to religious people as a reward for their faith. The non-existent vehicles supposedly were part of a multi-million dollar estate.

Baker, who cooperated with authorities, will begin her five-year prison sentence Dec. 3. She also is responsible in part for about $12.5 million in restitution.

Corinne Conway, 63, of Higginsville, Mo., pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of tax evasion in May in connection with the scheme. She was sentenced Thursday to 14 months in federal prison, and was ordered to pay $5 million in restitution, said Don Ledford, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Conway also was ordered to transfer property she owns in Higginsville to the federal government, with the intention of it being used for restitution, Ledford said.

About $8.5 million of the $21 million was refunded to disgruntled customers. About $1.3 million came from victims in Missouri, including two former Kansas City Chiefs players.

In June, a jury convicted co-defendants Robert Gomez, 28, of Long Beach, Calif., and James Nichols, 27, of Carson, Calif., for their role in the fraud. Nichols is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 30; sentencing for Gomez has not been scheduled.

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