Police say car lot took out loans on unsuspecting customers

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – You could be a victim and not even know it. Police believe there may be other victims of Autoway Car Sales on St. Charles Rock Road.

This morning, Pagedale police officers weaved through the car lot looking for connections between vehicles and other potential victims. Owner Anas Alshurafa, who sometimes went by “Sam,” is now in federal custody.

“We’re seizing all these vehicles off this lot,” said Interim Pagedale Police Chief Eddie Simmons.

Chief Simmons said they already know about more than 20 potential victims.

“Anybody who’s been here and filled out paperwork, you could be a victim and don’t even know it,” he said.

The chief said it started with one woman who said she couldn’t get a loan at Autoway, then got a call from a bank saying she defaulted on one.

“She says, ‘I never got a loan.’ So that kicked it off and there have been many other victims of this,” Simmons said. “So what we are looking for is the unsuspecting people, anybody who has come here and filled out paperwork. We want you to check their credit and see if this place has a loan out in their name.”

Investigators scoured through dozens of keys, trying to find the right car while working with federal agents, revenue investigators, and tow truck operators. Officers checked VINs on every car on the lot, checking to see if other cars are in people’s names who don’t know it.

Chief Simmons said victims may have piled up because the suspect appeared to be picking people having hard times.

“A lot of people, you can’t get in touch with them,” he said. “They don’t have phones, they move around. So that’s a benefit for him. (It was) just good for us that this lady came forward.”

Alshurafa did not get a chance to enter a plea at his initial appearance in federal court on Wednesday. The judge read the charges against him – wire fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. He will have a detention hearing Friday and an arraignment January 5.