The people allegedly defrauded by Sports & Imports auto consignment dealer Sama Duff Moore didn’t want to talk with reporters outside Columbus Recorder’s Court after her hearing Monday.
But their peculiar problems were no secret as they asked police for advice in the case that so far involves 38 felony counts, 21 victims and an estimated loss of around $815,000, dating back to 2019.
“The amount doesn’t include the number of vehicles that have been mistitled with multiple loans on them,” said a police news release announcing Moore’s arrest last week.
While in the business of selling customers’ automobiles, Moore allegedly kept their money for herself, or used their personal information and assets for further theft, officers said.
When investigators outside the courtroom told one victim they had found the car he had asked Moore to sell for him, he said he still had the title and could go get it.
No, he could not, they said, because Moore had sold his car to someone else who had a valid bill of sale.
That Moore never gave the seller the money didn’t matter, they said: Were the victim to take the car, he would be stealing it, whether he still had claim to it or not.
The police could not retrieve the car for him, they said. He would have to hire a lawyer and file a civil court claim for the vehicle.
During Moore’s hearing, Sgt. Jane Edenfield told Judge David Ranieri that additional people claiming Moore scammed them have been calling police since Moore’s arrest on Thursday. Five called Friday and four more on Monday, she said.
Should she go free?
Ranieri faced a dilemma in deciding whether to grant a bond for Moore. The district attorney’s office, in negotiations with defense attorney Rod Skiff of LaGrange had agreed to allow her release on $100,000 bond with an ankle monitor.
The victims objected. Among them was Cynthia Maisano Griffin, a local attorney who said Moore had told her of having family in Germany.
With Moore facing charges of identity theft, she was an obvious flight risk, Griffin said. She also asked Ranieri to order Moore to surrender any passports were she granted bond.
Griffin said she paid Moore $27,000 for a Ford Thunderbird, and never got the car.
Tales of loans and cars
She was not alone. A mother spoke on behalf of her 18-year-old son, telling Ranieri the teen had saved money for a car, and she had helped him get a loan to cover the cost.
Thanks to Moore, her son now had a car payment, but no car, she testified.
A man told the judge Moore used his identify to take out a loan. “She’s betrayed our trust,” he said.
Said a second man, standing with his wife: “She unlawfully sold my wife’s car.”
Ranieri took some time off the bench to consider this testimony, before telling Skiff his client would remain in jail, held without bond specifically on her identity theft charges.
That means Skiff now needs a Superior Court judge to set a bond for Moore. Typically that requires the district attorney’s consent, with victims allowed to give the court their input, under the Georgia Crime Victims Bill of Rights.
Here’s a rundown of Moore’s charges:
Nine counts of theft by conversion.
Eight counts of forgery.
Eight counts of theft by taking.
Five counts of identity theft.
Four counts of theft by deception.
Four counts of deposit account fraud, meaning writing bad checks.
Police continue to collect information from people who dealt with Moore, whose 1040 Veterans Parkway business was searched in October.
Investigators said the records seized may relate to others allegedly defrauded, and anyone suspecting they were scammed may contact investigators at 706-225-3151.