The leader of a Bulgarian crime cell that defrauded Las Vegas Valley car dealers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars was sentenced Monday to 82 months in federal prison.
Dragomir Taskov, 51, also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after he gets out of prison and share in the payment of $77,529 in restitution with two other convicted defendants in the case.
Taskov, a citizen of both Bulgaria and Canada, also faces deportation when he is done serving his time behind bars. He will get credit for the two years he has spent in federal custody fighting the charges.
The 82 months was less than the 135 to 168 months in prison the government had sought for Taskov under federal guidelines, but double the amount Senior U.S. District Judge Philip Pro handed out to the leader of another Bulgarian crime cell in Las Vegas in February.
Pro sentenced Dimitar Dimitrov to 41 months in prison for his admitted leadership role in a scheme that stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from valley ATMs.
Pro told Taskov Monday that he was getting a stiffer sentence than Dimitrov because he thinks Taskov lied to the jury when he took the witness stand at his trial. The jury convicted Taskov in March on four of 34 felony counts, including mail fraud and receipt of converted and fraudulently taken property.
Pro said he also did not see "a single bit of contrition" on Taskov's part.
When given an opportunity to address the judge, Taskov criticized the government's case against him, rather than apologize for his actions.
Taskov's lawyer, Terrance Jackson, insisted that Taskov was not the leader of the car dealer scheme. He described his client as an "honest mechanic" who merely had a passion for fixing cars.
But Assistant U. S. Attorney Eric Johnson said Taskov was involved in every aspect of the long-running scheme, which took place between 2004 and 2010.
Federal prosecutors had charged Taskov and his crew with unlawfully acquiring luxury vehicles from more than a dozen car dealers and shipping them coast to coast. Cars wound up in New York, Illinois, California and Georgia.
The ring used straw buyers claiming to be employed by phony companies at lucrative salaries to obtain financing for the vehicles, prosecutors alleged. The buyers sought to take possession of the cars before the dealers and their loan companies had fully verified the financial information.
The straw buyers also took advantage of the time delay that occurs when someone gets approved for a loan and the loan is posted to the buyer's credit report, according to prosecutors. The buyers were able to get multiple car loans at different dealers within a short period of time without the finance companies knowing about the other loans.