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Sentencing postponed again for man in car scam

Four years after a Marietta man was scammed out of $1.2 million, the man who pleaded guilty to the aggravated theft had his sentencing continued again.

Kendall Richards, 49, of 1740 Forest Hills Drive, Vienna, W.Va. pleaded guilty to aggravated theft, a second-degree felony, in April 2018. He was given until Oct. 18, 2018, to pay restitution of approximately $1.238 million to Marietta resident James Vuksic.

According to police reports, in 2016, Vuksic was approached by his son, Michael James Vuksic and a friend, Scott Francis Marion of 339 Auto Sales about a business proposition.

Cars would be purchased in Canada and sold at an auction in Syracuse, N.Y. Vuksic put up the money for the purchase, while his son and another friend, Mitchell Land, were to go to Canada to buy cars at auctions. Richards would then use his license to sell the cars for a profit.

Richards allegedly pocketed the money from the sales.

He withdrew his guilty plea on Dec. 9, 2019, as he had not made any payments. In his written statement, he said he was told to pay $1.238 million, but in September, his attorney, George Cosenza, said the amount was now $1.388 million, which was the original amount plus interest.

Richards was then given until Jan. 8 to pay the full restitution to Vuksic or he would be sentenced.

The sentencing hearing was postponed Jan. 8 until the Ohio Supreme Court could rule on an affidavit filed by Richards.

On Dec. 31, he filed an affidavit of disqualification to remove Washington County Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi from his case due to “prejudice, bias and other disqualifying grounds.”

In his answer to the affidavit, Kerenyi denied all allegations.

After it was announced Friday that the sentencing would be continued in a month, Washington County Prosecutor Nicole Coil said it was because of an argument regarding the restitution.

“Mr. Richards has not provided any money to Mr. Vuksic. However, he has provided a secondary lien on a piece of property to him,” Coil explained. “Mr. Richards has the property appraised and the appraiser said it was valued at $960,000. We disagree on the appraisal.”

She said the real issue is that there is no way to know what, if anything, the property is worth until it is purchased. The property in question is the Sundowner Used Auto Sales in Parkersburg.

“Cosenza wanted to argue that (Richards) had made restitution in the amount of the appraisal and I was going to argue that there has not been any restitution and there is no way to quantify, what, if anything, that property would bring on the open market,” she said.

She added the matter has been continued so that Richards can attempt to sell the property. Any cash he can produce will be counted as restitution and should reduce his prison sentence.

The new sentencing date will be set on Tuesday.

When contacted after the hearing Friday, Vuksic said he didn’t want Richards “junk property.”

“If he can sell the property and clear the debt, more power to him,” he said. “My reaction is that he’s had a year and three-quarters and has never offered to pay one penny. Every time we go to court and he’s ready to go to prison, he’s always saying he’s trying to raise money.”

Vuksic said Richards has not made an effort to pay any of the money back, so “he should go away for the maximum amount allowable by law.”

“You don’t deserve to be free. You deserve to be in prison,” he said. “At least make an honest effort. He’s had a year and a half to sell (the Sundowner property). Why didn’t he try to sell it in the last year and a half?”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

• Kendall Richards, 49, of 1740 Forest Hills Drive, Vienna, was in court Friday to be sentenced for aggravated theft.

• He pleaded guilty in April 2018 to stealing more than $1.2 million from Marietta resident James Vuksic.

• Richards’ sentencing will be continued next month, as he was given an extra month to sell property for restitution.

Source: Washington County Court of Common Pleas.

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