MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An Alabama businessman accused of masquerading as a dealer to obtain auto loans from numerous Montgomery-area banks and credit unions has been sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison. Gene Earl Easterling, 47, was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama and convicted on charges of bank fraud, mail fraud, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Authorities say Easterling defrauded local auto finance sources by claiming a computer and game console repair business he owned, Next-in-Line Inc., was a licensed car dealership, a scheme that generated 16 loans for a total of $682,980 from March 2015 to October 2017.
Prosecutors said the checks were mailed to accomplices who, at Easterling’s direction, cashed them, made one or two payments on each loan, divided the remainder, and then defaulted, hoping to clear the debts through bankruptcy.
Easterling was one of seven people arrested by federal agents in April of 2018 following an investigation that led to the seizure of drugs, cash, guns, and jewelry. Details on the purported bank and mail fraud scheme emerged in the months that followed.
Cases against Easterling’s accomplices are still pending, according to U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin.
“When criminals lie to banks for their own personal gain, it hurts everyone. When they are also selling drugs, it is even more alarming,” Franklin said in a statement. “Unfortunately, there is no shortage of crooks out there trying to defraud individuals, financial institutions, and government agencies. My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect the community from this type of criminal activity.”