Man arrested in car scheme

Friday, June 21, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A man wanted in a scheme to sell non-existent vehicles at discounted rates to reward people for their religious faith has been arrested in Los Angeles.

James R. Nichols, 26, of Carson, Calif., was taken into custody Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of Missouri.

Nichols, Robert Gomez, 27, of Bell, Calif., and Gwendolyn Baker, 51, of Memphis, Tenn., were charged in a 23-count indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City on May 8. Gomez and Baker were arrested earlier this month.

The defendants allegedly claimed they represented the estate of John Bowers, purported to be the owner of the engineering division of Mission Foods of Irvine, Texas. The three defendants allegedly told victims Bowers wanted to reward people of religious faith with bargain vehicles.

People from across the county jumped at the deal, paying a total of about $16 million for the vehicles that didn't exist. Missouri victims allegedly spent about $1.3 million to purchase 603 of the non-existent vehicles.

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