The man second in command to "Johnny Suzuki" over the former car dealership cluster around the Lowcountry pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges, admitting that he submitted fraudulent documentation in order to win incentive money from Suzuki based on fake sales.
Robert Low Sr., 72, of Moncks Corner, entered his plea in a downtown Charleston courtroom. Low will be sentenced at a later date. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.
Low and his attorney, David Michel, declined to comment following the hearing.
During the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams, who prosecuted the case, called Low cooperative.
Low was in charge of the finances of multiple car dealerships owned by John Dangerfield, also known as "Johnny Suzuki," according to prosecutors.
Dangerfield owned Suzuki dealerships in Moncks Corner, Summerville, Myrtle Beach and Easley, a Pontaic-Buick-GMC dealership in Easley and a Subaru-Isuzu dealership in Charleston.
Low and four other co-defendants, including Dangerfield, 50, of Moncks Corner, reported fraudulent car sales to Suzuki in order to receive incentive pay for each sale, prosecutors said in court.
Between July 2004 and February 2009, Dangerfield, Low, Daniel James Cory Cadden of Moncks Corner, Lloyd Ray Hayes of North Charleston and Jeffrey Michael Belsky of Easley allegedly conspired by falsifying documents and making other misrepresentations to auditors about the status of vehicles that were to be sold, according to court records.
The defendants would hide cars at the dealership to avoid detection during audits, prosecutors said in court. They began their scheme by fraudulently submitting the names of customers who had test-driven vehicles as buyers, even though they hadn't purchased a car, prosecutors said in court.
When those customers began complaining about receiving mailings congratulating them for their recent purchase at Suzuki, the defendants shifted their scheme, according to prosecutors.
The defendants began submitting "outright false names" to Suzuki as car buyers, Williams said in court. One co-defendant submitted his dog's name, Rufus Hayes, as a car buyer in order to get the incentive pay for the fraudulent sale, according to court documents.
The case against Dangerfield, Belsky, Cadden and Hayes remains pending. Dangerfield had been scheduled to change his not guilty plea on five fraud and conspiracy counts, but the Dec. 20 hearing was deferred to an unspecified, later date, according to Dangerfield's attorney, Lionel Lofton, He would not comment further on the case.
Low will remain free on bail until he is sentenced.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.