Charity scam earns car salesman 10 years in prison

April 16, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

He's been called a slick salesman, an evil Pied Piper and an all-star thief.

But when Gino Marchetti Jones was sentenced last week in Anne Arundel Circuit Court it was the first time -- despite a decade of criminal convictions -- that the elusive car salesman was put behind bars for a lengthy prison term.

Judge Bruce C. Williams sentenced the 34-year-old Columbia man to 10 years in prison on five counts of felony theft, and one count each of false advertising, misrepresentation and auto dealing without a license.

The judge said he was giving the maximum sentence requested by the state because of Jones' history of cheating people and avoiding incarceration.

"His record shows a rather lengthy career of duping people out of their money. . . . He certainly has done a lot of damage to a lot of people," he said.

Assistant State's Attorney Fred Paone said the sentence would finally protect the public from a man he called "the evil Pied Piper of North County.

"What he was doing was outright thievery," he said.

Mr. Paone said Jones ran a four-month scam in which he persuaded dozens of people to give him their second cars.

According to court papers, Jones ran classified ads in area newspapers from August 1993 to December 1993 asking readers to donate their cars to charity. Instead, Jones sold the vehicles from an unlicensed car dealership he set up along Dorsey Road in Hanover.

Jones, of the 11000 block of Bare Sky Lane, was charged in July with 67 counts of theft, conspiracy, fraud and dealing without a license. He pleaded guilty to the theft and misrepresentation charges March 7.

"People thought they were giving their car to a charitable foundation, but the only charitable foundation that ever saw a dime was the Gino Marchetti Jones fund," Mr. Paone said last week.

Howard Willey, a retired postal worker from Pasadena, said he responded to one such advertisement in the fall of 1993 because he wanted to get rid of his 11-year-old Chevrolet Celebrity.

The car still ran, but it had about 102,000 miles on it, and his daughter had just given him a 1988 Nissan that was in much better shape, he said.

"It sounded like a good idea," Mr. Willey said.

Mr. Paone said police began looking into Jones' operation in September 1993 after one of Jones' buyers -- who purchased Mr. Willey's Chevy -- had trouble securing title to the car from the Motor Vehicle Administration.

That buyer called Mr. Willey, who was listed in the title papers as the original owner. Mr. Willey said he was stunned to learn that Jones had sold his old car for $600.

"I thought it was a right nasty thing to do, because I could have given that car to someone I knew," he said.

Trooper Robert Myers of the Golden Ring barracks said that during the investigation, a police sergeant went to Jones' lot, posed as a customer and came away impressed with Jones' salesmanship.

"He is a very slick salesman, a very smooth, quick talker. He could talk you out of anything," he said. "He could talk you out of your underwear."

Trooper Myers said an Oct. 21, 1993, police raid on Jones' lot yielded about 200 cars, half acquired through the charity donation scam and half in other deals.

Jones was trying to sell cars at the Dorsey Road lot and by parking them along U.S. 1 with "For Sale" signs on their windshields, Trooper Myers said.

He used different phone numbers for different cars to prevent donors and buyers from realizing the cars were being handled as part of the same operation, Trooper Myers said.

"That way it didn't look like he was selling all these cars himself," he said.

Jones preferred to deal with potential donors over the phone. He also set up a network of phone lines at his dealership and his home so that he could tell which number was being called based on the pattern of the ring, Trooper Myers said.

Those who knew Gino Marchetti Jones -- named after the legendary Baltimore Colt Gino Marchetti -- say the scam was consistent behavior for someone who had earned a reputation ** among police and prosecutors.

"The guy's got to be an all-star thief when it comes to any list of Anne Arundel County criminals," said Richard Duden, an Annapolis lawyer who prosecuted Jones in Annapolis District Court when he was an assistant state's attorney 10 years ago.

Jones was:

* Fined $600 in 1986 on six counts of operating a car dealership without a license. The fine was imposed about two years after customer complaints persuaded the MVA to lift his dealer's license and that of the Glen Burnie dealership he operated, G & G Motors.

* Given a 20-year suspended sentence in 1988 after pleading guilty to 11 counts of auto theft and four counts of distribution of cocaine for his role in a ring that stole cars from dealerships in Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties and sold them to unsuspecting buyers.

* Charged in 1991 with using a stolen credit card to buy more than $3,000 in jewelry from three stores at Marley Station. Charges were dropped because a key prosecution witness did not show up for trial.

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