Federal authorities have charged a 34-year old salesman named Apollon Nimo with wire fraud, saying he masterminded an employee pricing scheme that reportedly cost Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) around $8.7 million. He operated undetected for several years, authorities said, giving thousands of new-car buyers unbeatable deals while receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses.
Nimo began giving employee discounts on purchases and loans in 2014, court documents say, but it’s a little puzzling that such a scheme wasn’t uncovered until 2021. He closed more sales with employee discounts than any other FCA salesperson in the United States, according to Automotive News. Prosecutors believe his customers received a 5% discount by falsely claiming they were the brother- or sister-in-law of an FCA employee. They added that Employee Purchase Control Numbers (EPCN) were often bought and sold on private Facebook groups.
For example, court documents assert that Nimo’s father, Salim, leased at least three different cars in 2014 through his son, who worked at Parkway Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Clinton Township, Michigan. He received a discount on each vehicle by claiming he was the brother-in-law of three different FCA employees. FCA seemingly trusted its dealers and their personnel to do the right thing, and it did not verify whether the family connection was true.
The scheme was a win-win, prosecutors say: Buyers received a cheaper car, and Nimo unlocked big bonuses for being a top seller. FCA awarded him about $700,000 between 2010 and 2019. He sold around 250 cars in January 2020, which Automotive News notes is more than the entire sales staff at the average FCA store.
Surprisingly, it’s not the super-sized bonuses or the jaw-dropping sales figures that rang an alarm bell. Law enforcement officials turned their attention to Nimo after FCA employees noticed someone was applying their personal discount code to purchases without their authorization. Following the paper trail led them to Nimo’s store.
Federal agents arrested Nimo on April 30. He posted a bond, and a preliminary hearing is set for May 21.