‘CAR-SCAM’ LINK EYED
EXCLUSIVE: July 15, 2007 Detectives are investigating possible links between the men accused of gunning down two Brooklyn cops and an alleged million-dollar scam at a Long Island auto dealership. While probing the murder of car salesman Collin Thomas outside the showroom of Universal Auto World in Lawrence, L.I., in January, cops unraveled what they said was a massive scam at the dealership.
Employees at Universal allegedly stole and bought identities, then used IDs to obtain at least $1.3 million in financing for fancy cars, court records show. The luxury models, including Maseratis and Aston Martins, were allegedly sold or transferred under the table to individuals who didn’t want cars in their real names. Nassau County Police Lt. Kevin Smith said his department and city cops were investigating if accused cop shooters Dexter Bostic and Robert Ellis knew Thomas and were part of the scam.
Bostic worked as a car salesman at Five Towns Mitsubishi, just up the road from Universal on Burnside Avenue in Inwood. Ellis, who lived with Bostic, also may have once worked at Five Towns. “We’re investigating any links between these people,” Smith said. Thomas had worked at Five Towns Chrysler, across the street, for several years before joining Universal.
Thomas, 27, a father of two, was shot in the back as he closed up for the night on Jan. 11. As part of the homicide probe, Nassau County police raided the dealership, owned by auto czar Michael Oshry, and Oshry’s Hewlett Harbor home and seized business records. Cops found banking records were sent to the house, though the state requires such files be kept at businesses, according to court papers filed in a civil forfeiture action by the Nassau district attorney. “The dealership knew what was going on,” an investigator said.
Oshry’s lawyer, William Petrillo, said his client “has not engaged in any criminal activity.” His ex-wife, Pamela Geller, former associate publisher of the New York Observer and a conservative blogger, burst into tears when told her ex is under criminal investigation. Although listed in business records as a Universal co-owner, she denied it. “I have nothing to do with this,” Geller said.
Thomas’ fiancée Cindy Heron, 21, said he was popular and successful. “All his customers loved him,” she said. Universal shut its doors June 22 and liquidated its assets. Cops say Bostic and Ellis were in a BMW SUV that Bostic had taken from the Mitsubishi lot when fired at Officers Herman Yan and Russel Timoshenko on Monday. Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley, John Mazor, Georgett Roberts and Douglas Montero.