Former car dealer sentenced to 53 years in prison
A former used-car salesman convicted of selling salvaged vehicles with “clean” titles was handed a virtual life sentence of 53 years in prison Tuesday.
A Mesa County jury in April found Camden Fortney, the owner of Camden Motors, 2148 Broadway, guilty on 21 felony counts related to defrauding customers by selling the salvaged vehicles to unsuspecting customers at discounted prices.
Terrence Gillespie, a prosecutor with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, asked Mesa County District Judge Brian Flynn to sentence Fortney to 10 years in prison. That sentence probably would have resulted in about four to five years behind bars in a minimum-security facility for Fortney, 68, who had no prior criminal history, Gillespie said.
But Flynn had other ideas, calling Fortney a “rip-off artist” who put profits ahead of customers’ safety while selling people “rolling pieces of junk.”
Flynn’s sentence appeared to shock attorneys on both sides as well as Fortney, who put one hand to his head after hearing that the separate sentences for each count will run consecutively, a total of 53 years.
“This scheme went on for a long time, taking advantage of a lot of people,” Flynn said. “I think the scheme you pulled off destroyed confidence in the economy. I don’t want to be driving down the road in a car that’s been salvaged. I don’t think a lot of people do.”
Flynn said a letter written by Fortney to the court showed him that Fortney didn’t take responsibility for his actions, and Flynn said he considered the defendant was unable to be rehabilitated. Flynn also recalled testimony from a witness who had recounted that Fortney waved goodbye to her and three children as they were in the car they had just purchased from him, unaware they were driving away in a vehicle that was repaired after being totaled.
During the trial, Gillespie had said that Fortney would pay bribes ranging from $100 to $500 to insurance adjusters so he could buy salvaged vehicles. The vehicles were later repaired, and Fortney passed them off as having clean titles, which allowed him to sell the vehicles for more money, the prosecutor told jurors.
Fortney’s attorney, Gregory Mueller, said his client believed he was acting within the law in obtaining and reselling the vehicles. Mueller said the insurance company, Colorado Casualty, which ultimately reported the allegations against Fortney to the Attorney General’s Office, never told Fortney he needed to obtain salvage titles for the vehicles. Mueller further said that Fortney was open to repairing vehicles for customers if they had complaints, that not all customers had defects with their vehicles, and that not one customer was involved in an accident because of the salvaged vehicles.
Fortney also will have to pay $478,000 in restitution to Colorado Casualty, plus about $100,000 for its cost of investigation and interest. Colorado Casualty Insurance paid $630,000 to buy back 52 vehicles with suspected fraudulent titles, according to testimony.
As part of the case, former insurance adjuster Terry Robinson, 50, pleaded guilty to second-degree forgery. He was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $3,200 in restitution.
Another former insurance adjuster, Mary Cross, 50, pleaded guilty to commercial bribery. She received a four-year deferred prison sentence and was ordered to pay $12,300 in restitution.