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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 19, 2018

UNLICENSED CAR DEALER PLEADS GUILTY

Consumers cautioned against shady sales practices

LAS VEGAS – A man arrested last year by Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles for selling cars in the Las Vegas area without a Nevada dealership license has pleaded guilty to a related felony charge. 

Russell Ricafort, 41, was arrested July 2, 2017, by DMV investigators and charged with 56 counts of Unlicensed Dealership Activity, Operating as an Unlicensed Salesman, Forgery and Conspiracy to Commit Forgery.

In a settlement reached with the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, Ricafort pleaded guilty to Forgery, a Category B felony, and agreed to serve three to five years’ probation and pay restitution to the state.

Ricafort will be formally sentenced on February 12, 2019, in Clark County District Court.  The state is seeking restitution based on an outstanding administrative fine and dealer licensing and bond fees that Ricafort should have paid. 

Ricafort worked as a dealership salesman until his license was denied by the Nevada DMV in 2009. Thereafter, he began acquiring vehicles at dealer wholesale auctions and selling them through Craigslist and on empty lot corners throughout Clark County. In many cases, he represented himself as the owner of a fictional dealership called Aloha Auto Sales. 

In 2015, Ricafort received a Cease and Desist order from DMV’s Compliance Enforcement Division, but continued selling vehicles to unsuspecting consumers, purporting to be the owner of Aloha Auto Sales.  The DMV also blocked the registering and titling of the vehicles he sold.

All of the affected motorists were able eventually to register and title their vehicles after paying the appropriate sales taxes and fees as the DMV continued its investigation.  

In one of the cases, a DMV undercover purchase netted two additional arrests.  Oscar Rodriguez, 57, the owner of OS’CARS Auto Sales, a licensed dealership, and Drago Zlatar, 66, an employee of OS’CARS, allegedly conspired to forge DMV documents to make it appear OS’CARS had sold one of Ricafort’s vehicles.

Rodriguez and Zlatar were arrested on June 19, 2017, and charged with Forgery and Conspiracy to Commit Forgery. Their cases are expected to be settled next year. OS’CARS has paid an $800 administrative fine to the DMV. 

“Consumer protection is one of our top priorities,” said Joseph (J.D.) Decker, Nevada DMV’s Compliance Enforcement Division Administrator. “Our officers work diligently to ensure that Nevada’s laws are enforced to maintain a fair marketplace for everyone.”

Under Nevada law, anyone who sells more than three personally-owned vehicles per year must obtain a dealer license from the Department of Motor Vehicles, which protects consumers through background checks, surety bonds, and local business licensing. Licensed dealers are required to perform vehicle inspections and emissions testing prior to selling a vehicle to consumers. They also collect and remit sales tax to the State of Nevada.

Decker says none of those safeguards are in place for motorists who buy cars on vacant corner lots or shopping center parking lots.

“You have no way to track down the seller if there is a problem,” said Decker. “Make sure you get a title from a private seller, check their ID and have them complete a Bill of Sale.”

Consumers can go on the DMV website to make sure that a dealer is properly licensed.  Motorists can also file a complaint with the Compliance Enforcement Division for any illegal vehicle sales.

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Russell Ricafort
Russell Ricafort
Photo: Clark County Detention Center

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