West, Menifee Facing Lengthy Prison Terms In Fraud Case

Thursday, February 2, 2006

The former manager of an East Ridge loan office and a former local used car dealer are facing extensive prison time after pleading guilty to fraud.

Billy Collins West and Lucius Menifee entered guilty pleas before Federal Judge Thomas A. Varlan of Knoxville.

West is facing up to 50 years and Menifee 90 years in the case in which prosecutors said involved bogus loans and insurance scams.

Sentencing is May 10 at 11 a.m.

West, who was manager of Pioneer Credit on Ringgold Road, pleaded guilty to bank fraud, mail fraud and identity theft. He faces up to 30 years and a $1 million fine on bank fraud, up to 15 years and a $250,000 fine for mail fraud and up to five years and a $250,000 fine for identity theft.

Menifee pleaded guilty to three counts of bank fraud, carrying up to 30 years each and a fine up to $1 million.

Prosecutor Gary Humble said the fraud dates back as early as June 1996 and continued to Jan. 9, 2001.

He said Pioneer Credit got funding from First Tennessee Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.

He said West set up loans without the knowledge of the named borrowers and also set up bogus loans in which he split proceeds with the borrower. He said collateral was used, including autos and boats, that did not belong to the named borrowers.

He said the loans were often "repaid" by use of other bogus loans.

The prosecutor said false claims on wrecks were submitted to Voyager Insurance Company of Dallas, Tex. He said some of those proceeds were used to cover bogus loans.

He said personal financial information was used in the loans without authorization.

He said West essentially became partners with Menifee at his used car lot.

He said from January 1999 to December 2000 that West had a payroll of $64,747 and had net deposits of $486,738, including $166,415 in cash.

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