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Cortland car dealership owner charged with ID theft

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 11:59 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 11:55 p.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – The owner of a Cortland used-car dealership was charged with seven counts of identity theft Wednesday for allegedly using his customers’ information to take out phony car loans.

Terry Morrow Jr., owner of Silver Star Motors in Cortland, is being investigated for 25 cases of identity theft, seven of which involved DeKalb County residents, DeKalb County court records show. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office is investigating 18 cases linked to Morrow in Missouri.

Morrow, 25, of the 1200 block of Christopher Court in Elgin, faces seven Class 2 felony charges, all punishable by up to seven years in prison. He is being held at DeKalb County Jail on $750,000 bond.

No identity theft victim lost money, but each lending company Morrow used in his alleged scheme was defrauded of between $3,000 and $7,000, police said.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said police made an arrest just in time, as Morrow was about to close shop and leave Cortland. At about 10 p.m. Tuesday, police were informed a U-Haul was at the dealership being loaded with office supplies and all the cars that were for sale were gone.

Morrow opened his Cortland business in April after moving from Missouri.

Once in custody, Morrow explained to police how he carried out the identity thefts, Scott said.

Scott said Morrow would find a vehicle for sale online and use that information, along with customer information he obtained through his dealership, to take out a loan from a finance company. Morrow told police he would give the finance companies a bogus address for the borrower.

Morrow would never actually buy the vehicles, but pocketed the loan proceeds.

Once he received the loan, he would make initial payments but then stop, Scott said. Because he provided incorrect addresses to the loan companies, those institutions would have a difficult time tracking down the customers who had the loans in their names, Scott said.

According to court documents, police were tipped off when a customer of the dealership reported receiving a payment book for a loan for a 2003 Mercury Mountaineer, even though he had purchased a 2001 Ford Windstar from the dealership in October.

Finance company representatives told police they had all of the customer’s information, including a photograph copy of his driver’s license. When police contacted Morrow about the situation, Morrow told them his website had been hacked and he too was a victim of identity theft because of the hacking, court records show.

But police discovered two other DeKalb County residents with similar problems at the dealership and later learned the Missouri Attorney General’s Office was investigating Morrow over similar complaints from residents.

Scott said he expects the Missouri Attorney General's Office to file charges and will inform them of the arrest.

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