RAC Loses $300,000 Corporate Account to FBI Sting

SAN DIEGO -- You know you're in for a tough day when your $300,000-per-year corporate account is reduced to an anecdote in an FBI press release. But that's what happened to one unidentified rental car company in late February.

FBI agents in San Diego, Las Vegas and Dallas executed eight arrest warrants and 18 search warrants in those cities on Feb. 28 to dismantle what the FBI described as a "cult-like investment fraud and money-laundering criminal enterprise."

John Franklin Harrell led the group of con artists, according to an FBI press release issued that same day. Harrell allegedly told investors he was in charge of a $1.6 trillion trust created by descendants of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church. Harrell claimed the trust comprised "flight capital" and was held offshore.

For years, Harrell's criminal ring used investor money to charter private aircraft, rent luxury cars and rent luxury apartments, the FBI press release said. The annual bill at one car rental company topped $300,000 in 2002.

When contacted by Auto Rental News, the FBI office in San Diego declined to identify the rental car company.

According to the FBI, Harrell told investors that his role was to convert the trust money into insurance instruments. All he had to do, he told them, was raise enough money to start an insurance company so he could access the trust assets and repay investors.

The year-long investigation was dubbed "Operation Good Samaritan." Assisting the FBI in the investigation were the Internal Revenue Service and the California Department of Insurance.

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