The owners and operators of Montecito Motors, who at one time claimed their business was beleaguered by a downtrodden economy, were charged on Tuesday morning with 59 criminal counts, including conspiracy, grand theft, forgery, and filing false tax returns. The charges go back to March 2004 and extend until October 2010, a month after the high-end used car business closed. The Santa Barbara Independent originally reported suspicions and customer complaints about Montecito Motors in September 2010; that article can be read here. The follow-up, December 2010 story is here.
Named in this week’s complaint are Chet Taylor, his son Adam, daughter Sarah, and wife Jennifer. Chet and Adam were taken into custody Tuesday morning and are expected to be in court Thursday morning. Their bail has been set at $1 million each, a number Adam Taylor’s attorney Joshua Lynn called “insanely high.”
The Taylors are suspected of stealing more than $1 million from 26 different victims. The complaint alleges Adam and Chet Taylor illegally obtained duplicate titles, forged signatures, and lied to owners of vehicles that had been sold. They would delay payments or not pay owners of vehicles at all.
Additionally, according to police, Adam and Chet Taylor scammed an investor of more than $290,000 for a line of credit supposed to be secured by the titles of cars they owned. Many of those titles, police say, were either duplicates from vehicles they’d already sold or titles to cars they didn’t own.
Alleged victim Gregory Price spoke with The Independent in the summer of 2010, explaining he had brought his 1969 Mercedes 280SE to the dealership in May 2009. The vehicle was sold that December, without his knowledge, and he was never paid the $50,000 he was owed. Price was given the runaround for days, he said, and he never found out where the car went, who bought it, or for how much. In connection with Price’s vehicle, Adam Taylor was charged with grand theft of personal property.
In the year-and-a-half since The Independent’s 2010 story, the Santa Barbara Police Department, District Attorney’s Office, and the state Franchise Tax Board have been investigating the troubled consignment shop. The complexity of the investigation is evident in the district attorney’s 13-page complaint, which outlines the 59 counts.
A breakdown of the charges shows the following:
— Chet Taylor, 71: one count conspiracy to commit grand theft, 14 counts of grand theft, two counts of forgery, six counts of theft from an elder, and six counts of filing false tax returns, all felonies; one misdemeanor count of being a salesperson without a license;
— Adam Taylor, 41: one count of conspiracy to commit grand theft, one count of grand theft by false pretense, nine counts of grand theft, four counts of theft from an elder, one count of forgery, six counts of failure to file a corporate income tax return, five counts of filing false tax returns, two counts of failure to file income tax returns, all felonies; one count of misdemeanor employing a salesperson without a license and three misdemeanor counts of failing to transfer registration
— Sarah Taylor-Swing, 43: four felony counts of filing a false tax return; and
— Jennifer Taylor, 65: five felony counts of filing a false tax return.
Adam Taylor faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, while Chet Taylor faces a maximum of 32 years in state prison. Sarah Taylor-Swing faces five years in prison, while Jennifer Taylor faces a potential of five years and eight months in prison if convicted.
Joshua Lynn, attorney for Adam Taylor, said there has been a high level of cooperation between his client and authorities, and that Taylor “hasn’t tried to evade responsibility for any of this.” The Taylors, in their cooperation, handed over all their files, records, and documents to authorities. The Taylors’ goal, Lynn said, is to get the money back to people who have outstanding claims.
“The obvious truth was that it was a business failing due to economic pressures at the time,” Lynn said. “The result is the authorities believe they were trying to rescue their business in a way that was illegal.”
Lynn said he expected criminal charges to be filed but was disappointed at the total number. Lynn said he will ask for a bail hearing in which he will request a reduction in bail.
Joshua Webb, attorney for Chet Taylor, didn’t return a phone call Tuesday afternoon. It’s unclear whether either woman has legal representation.