LOS ANGELES – A Baldwin Hills man is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon on federal charges that allege he conned victims from across the nation into giving him their high-end and exotic vehicles with bogus promises he would find other people to take over their leases.
Geoffrey Eldridge Hull, 40, who maintained offices on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, was arrested Wednesday evening by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Hull was arrested pursuant to a federal grand jury indictment that charges him with six counts of wire fraud related to his “lease consignment” program.
Hull allegedly marketed himself and the various companies he operated as being able to find people to take over luxury automobile leases from individuals who wanted out of the leases on their Bentleys, Ferraris, Porsches, Maseratis and other high-end automobiles. Hull agreed to cover monthly lease payments and promised leaseholders that he would quickly find a “credit-qualified buyer to legally assume the lease through the original finance company,” according to the indictment, which further alleges that Hull used a longtime friend and business associate to vouch for the quality of the program.
Despite assuring victims that his venture was successful, Hull and his companies did not find people to take over these leases, the indictment alleges. Instead, Hull offered the luxury cars for rent and passed little of the rent money onto the original leaseholders, who were still responsible for lease payments. Furthermore, Hull allegedly made few, if any, timely car lease payments.
Hull routinely ignored victims’ requests for the return of their vehicles, prompting some to make stolen car reports to law enforcement agencies, according to court documents. When some victims’ cars were returned after law enforcement seizures, repossession and other means, the cars were often damaged, had incurred toll and parking violations, and had been driven over the allotted mileage.
“Customers and local and federal law enforcement repeatedly told Hull his business was fraudulent, Hull was sued civilly several times for fraud and intentional misrepresentation, he received dozens of demand letters from attorneys, and he was interviewed by the media about his failure to make lease payments as promised,” according to a criminal complaint previously filed in this case.
When victims posted negative reviews online about Hull and his company, Hull would change his company name and resume the scheme, court documents allege. The company names Hull used to operate his scheme included Exotic Lease Transfer, Luxe Lease Transfer, Shift Lease, Veer Lease, Torque Transfer, Haven Transfer, Early Lease, and Open Lease Transfer. Hull, who has three prior convictions for grand theft auto, also allegedly used a series of aliases as part of the scheme, including “Geoff Eldredge,” “Geoff Eldridge,” “Jefrii Eldridge,” “Geoffrey Hulle,” “Jeff Bluthenthal,” and “Jeff H.”
HSI special agents have, so far, identified approximately 115 victims from around the nation. The estimated losses in this case exceed $1 million. Agents believe there are still unidentified victims, and anyone with information about this matter is encouraged to call the Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line at 866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423).
If convicted of the six counts of wire fraud alleged in the indictment, Hull would face a statutory maximum sentence of 120 years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by HSI Los Angeles, and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s Major Frauds and Public Corruption and Civil Rights Sections.