Working for an automaker has its perks. For example, those who work or have retired from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) now Stellantis are eligible for the Stellantis Affiliate Rewards Program.
The program allows employees of the company and their direct family members to qualify for special pricing, equal to 5% below the quoted dealer invoice on a new Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep®, FIAT, or Ram qualifying vehicle. Employees and the former are also allotted a certain number of “friends and family” discounts which are equal to a discount of 1% below the quoted dealer invoice.
Two former salespeople at Parkway Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram in Clinton Township, Michigan have pleaded not guilty to defrauding FCA, after being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Apollon Nimo and Farrah Bahoo, both entered not guilty pleas at their June 3rd arraignments in Detroit by Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti after their May 26th indictments on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If charged, it could be punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Attorneys for both former salespeople charged claimed that their clients did nothing wrong.
Federal investigators discovered a massive black market with the buying and selling of FCA Employee Pricing (EP) discount numbers through private groups on Facebook.
The investigation started after employees filed complaints with FCA, after finding out their EP numbers were being used without their consent. Local law enforcement soon conducted interviews with those who filed complaints and found that a majority of them were used by the Clinton Township dealer with as many as 268 EP numbers being illegally used between the period of 2016 to 2018. All of which were used by Nimo, and ultimately cost the automaker around $8.7 million.
From 2010 to 2019, FCA awarded Nimo with about $700,000 in bonuses for his sales success. Nimo who sold around 250 cars in the month of January in 2020, sold more vehicles by himself than most Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, FIAT, Ram dealers would sell total for a month. According to the indictment, Nimo continued using the EP numbers right up to his arrest in 2021 and Bahoo worked on his team.
The report indicated that Nimo was the rewards program’s top salesman in 2018 and 2019.
Patrick Hurford, who is Nimo’s attorney, stated that his client didn’t steal the EP numbers and sell them to non-Stellantis employees. But he did say that Nimo used legitimate codes generated by employees at the time when FCA was accused of paying dealers to lie about their sales numbers.
”It is well known in the industry that some automaker employees, including Stellantis employees, sell their discount numbers,” Hurford said. ”Some of these employees even count on this source of income. FCA knew this. Stellantis knows it. No one has stopped it because it increases sales.”
“FCA, the same company that bribed union officials to gain a tactical advantage in labor negotiations, wanted sales so badly it paid dealerships to lie about sales numbers and reported falsified sales to mislead investors, artificially inflating stock prices and leading to an SEC settlement,“ stated Hurford.
“Mr. Nimo sold cars with legitimate discount codes, generated by employees, during a time FCA was paying many dealerships to lie about sales numbers. It is beyond difficult to understand how Mr. Nimo could have caused losses alleged by the government,” Hurford concluded.
In 2019, FCA settled a federal antitrust lawsuit in which it was accused of pressuring dealers to submit false sales numbers. The company was forced to pay a $40 million fire and had to reinstate 5 years of sales number results.
The antitrust lawsuit brought forth another lawsuit by former FCA executive Reid Bigland after he claimed that the company retaliated against him for cooperating with the U.S. government’s investigation into the company’s sales reporting. It was widely known, that Bigland was in the running to become the successor to the late former FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne before his peer Mike Manley was chosen for the job.
Source: The Macomb Daily