Valley residents lose nearly ,000 trying to buy used cars

Valley residents lose nearly $50,000 trying to buy used cars

All of the victims used the same car salesman, a man identified in police files and court proceedings as Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz.

MESA, Arizona – Buying a new car can be exciting, but it turned into a nightmare for 18 Valley residents after they said they lost nearly $50,000 in cash.

All of the victims used the same salesman, a man identified in police files and court proceedings as Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz.

RELATED: Phoenix used car salesman accused of stealing from employers and customers

Velarde promised to deliver the cars within weeks, but the victims never received a car or all the money they gave him as a down payment, according to documents.

“I tried to prove him right when there was a doubt,” said Angelica Cabrera.

Cabrera, her father, and brother together gave Velarde $10,000 in cash for two trucks and a car they planned to buy him at their Mesa home in June 2021. He gave them receipts and told them their new cars would be shipped from Nevada and would arrive in Arizona within a week.

“This weekend the cars didn’t come and he just said one apology after another. “Oh, the cars aren’t here; You will need a little longer.’ And that went on for months,” said Cabrera.

Pressured by Cabrera and her family, Velarde returned $2,800 on Aug. 2, but that was the last they heard from him, police said.

“One time two, three weeks would go by and it was just excuse after excuse and we were like, ‘Okay, this guy is cheating on us,'” she said.

Cabrera’s mother filed a complaint with the Mesa Police Department while she went to Facebook and found out her family wasn’t the only ones running out of money.

18 alleged victims

On Jan. 25, Edna Márquez said in a Facebook post that a man who promised to sell her a car allegedly took off with her $5,000 in cash. She identified the man as Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz and attached a picture of his Mexican voter ID.

“I put it out to see if anyone would recognize him and tell him to pay me back for needing this money for my medical expenses,” Marquez said. “I was surprised I wasn’t the only one.”

The single mother of two suffers from multiple sclerosis. Her condition is deteriorating by the day, forcing her to see the doctor several times a week, she said.

“My need for a car led me to make that decision and to trust my friend who referred me to him,” Márquez said.

Márquez agreed to purchase a Jeep Cherokee from Velarde. Her money was in the bank, and since she didn’t have a car, Velarde reportedly volunteered to give her a lift.

“He came to my house and we went to the bank,” she said. “He queued up for me because my condition doesn’t allow me to stand for long and I returned the money to him at my house.”

Márquez presented Velarde with $5,000 in cash, and like Cabrera, she received a receipt for her “purchase” on June 4, 2021. The Jeep Cherokee was supposed to arrive days later, but it didn’t.

Velarde told her there had been problems with the cargo the cars were in and he needed more time, she said. Marquez demanded her money back.

“I told him I could wait for him but I need an act of goodwill and that was we go to a notary and he would agree to pay me back,” Márquez said. “He came and picked me up again and we got a letter ready which we both signed.”

“This letter informs everyone that Jorge Carlos Velarde will pay Edna L. Marquez Flores a lump sum payment of $5,000 in cash on Sunday, June 27, 2021. This is for the 2017 Jeep Cherokee ZRT Sport. In case of non-payment, she has the right to take legal action.”

But Velarde never returned a dime.

“He just crossed his arms and took the money without caring about my health,” Marquez said.

On January 7, 2022, a judge ruled in her favor. She published all of her documents and evidence online.

“It went viral in one day,” Márquez said.

A pattern

Márquez’s social media post was shared 1,700 times and received nearly 900 comments. People shared their own stories of alleged similar encounters with a man they also identified as Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz.

“We just couldn’t hear from him or anything,” Ana Orozco said.

Orozco, her sister, and her mother gave Velarde $6,000 in cash and Orozco’s 2014 Mercedes in exchange for three vehicles, which court records say they never received.

“He just gave us excuses; He said, ‘My son is dying,’ and then his mother died,” Orozco said. “Obviously you end up feeling bad for him [maybe] life doesn’t go your way.”

12News learned of 18 victims, who police reported lost $47,300 in cash and two cars valued at $23,000.

All of the victims said Velarde had apologized to them for weeks. In messages shared with 12News, Velarde is heard saying his mother has died and that she “has been ill for two days.”

In another audio message, Velarde said: “My brother had an accident last night. Thank god he’s fine.”

Orozco’s mother received a video from Velarde showing an infant lying in a bed. Velarde claimed it was his son who had been ill in a hospital but was “finally home” in his bed.

“To be honest, I felt bad,” said Javier Bojorquez. “He called me with a broken voice, he told me his mother had died. I fell for it and said I’ll give it time.”

Bojorquez gave Velarde $4,500 in down payment for a truck on August 3, 2021. His last contact with him was in December after repeated apologies and no return of money.

In all cases, Velarde eventually stopped responding to all potential buyers.

12News made several attempts to reach Velarde and his apartment by phone, but to no avail.

The police are investigating

Mesa Police Department launched an investigation after receiving six reports of fraud involving 12 victims, which linked to one suspect: Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz.

Police reports show detectives spoke to Velarde at least three times in 2021, at a police station, at his home and by phone in September, October and December.

In September, Velarde met an officer at a police station after a woman reported that she agreed to trade her 2015 BMW and $3,500 in cash for a 2018 Jeep Rubicon, but the seller had neither produced the car nor returned her vehicle, according to records .

Police let him go as Velarde agreed to return the victim their cash and the money he received for selling the BMW. At the time of the report, the car’s title had passed to another owner, according to documents.

In October, officials moved to Velarde’s Mesa home. A woman named Maria reported that she gave the seller $7,000 for a car he never produced and he didn’t pay her back.

“Jorge has confirmed that he carried out the transaction with Maria and Jorge has confirmed that he did not provide the promised vehicle and did not refund Maria’s money,” the police report said.

Then in December, while investigating another report of alleged fraud involving a woman who paid $4,000 for a car, officials spoke to Velarde on the phone, and he reportedly “admitted that it’s wrong what he does and that he had to change it,” according to records.

During the same phone call, police said Velarde “expressed remorse for his ‘misconduct’,” documents show.

During the investigation, officers noted multiple calls to the Velarde home regarding reports of fraud. Because different officers had responded to those calls, they did not link the reports to the same alleged suspect until the December investigation.

According to records, on August 1, 2021, Velarde called the police because “there were some people at his home to whom he owed money and they refused to leave.”

Six victims positively identified Velarde in a photo lineup as the man they said took their money, records say, including a woman whose civil suit against Velarde is pending.

The Mesa Police Department submitted their case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which dismissed the case.

Records said the agency found prosecutors “cannot prove these transactions were criminal.”

In a statement to 12News, MCAO said the case “does not meet our fee standard of a reasonable likelihood of conviction and therefore no charges are being filed at this time.”

“We recognize that Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz’s business practices are of concern and negative impact to members of our community. Unfortunately, the facts and evidence in this case do not show any criminal intent that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This office is very benevolent to those who had dealings with this individual,” the statement said.

Another agency, the Office of Inspector General of Arizona, tells 12News that they handle auto crime cases and are ready to assist the Mesa Police Department.

12News informed the Mesa Police Department about it, and a spokesman said they were looking into it.

“We’ve all worked hard for this money, and it’s just not fair for someone to just come and take your money,” Cabrera said. “He needs to stop doing this and I want him to pay for what he did.”

If you have had similar experiences, please contact reporter Adriana Loya at [email protected]

SPANISH VERSION: Sellers beware: 18 Valley residents claim they lost nearly $50,000 trying to buy used cars

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