Former RAC Operator Found Guilty in Fraud Case

A federal jury Monday convicted former Thrifty Car Rental operator Michael W. Ryan for 17 fraud counts in a scheme to overcharge rental customers for windshield replacements, according to the Associated Press.

In May the Billings man was charged with wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. He sold the rental business in April.

Prosecutors said the conspiracy started in 1999 and continued for about 3 1/2 years. In early 2003, FBI agents seized records during a search of Thrifty and Fas-Break Windshield Repair and Replacements on a tip from State Farm Insurance Co., the Associated Press reports.

Ryan was accused of conspiring with his fleet manager, Jeffrey Loney, and Fas-Break owner Kevin Massick to charge high prices for windshield replacements, deduct a wholesale price and split the profits. Often, windshields were not replaced.

During the investigation, prompted by a tip from State Farm Insurance Co., undercover FBI agents rented vehicles, chipped the windshields and observed how Thrifty and Fas-Break responded when the vehicles were returned.

Loney and Massick, both of whom pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, testified against Ryan. Government witnesses also included rental customers who had complained after receiving bills as high as $1,700 for windshield replacements.

Ryan is free without bail while he awaits sentencing March 15. Possible penalties include 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Loney and Massick await sentencing, as well.

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