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Theft of Maserati in Merriam might be part of larger hot-check scheme, police say

Updated: 2014-02-03T16:56:35Z

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

A 46-year-old Kansas City man appeared Friday in Johnson County District Court to face allegations that he used a bad check to steal a 2014 Maserati worth more than $119,000.

But authorities say the stolen Maserati may just be the most expensive vehicle taken in a series of thefts in which someone used checks written on closed accounts to purchase vehicles from dealerships in Kansas City and Nebraska.

Sanford Joe Willis is charged in Johnson County with the Jan. 14 theft by deception of the Maserati Quattroporte from Aristocrat Motors in Merriam.

Authorities recovered the car Monday in Grandview along with a Cadillac that had been taken Jan. 25 from a dealership in Blair, Neb.

Jim Nelson, manager of the Sid Dillon dealership in Blair, said the Cadillac was purchased along with a Corvette and a Lincoln. Nelson said the dealership would not normally have accepted a check for the vehicles, but a customer had provided a reference for the purchaser.

Nelson said that after it was discovered that the check had been written on a closed account, he contacted police.

The OnStar systems in the Cadillac and Corvette led police to the Cadillac in Grandview and the Corvette parked outside a southeast Kansas City residence.

According to police reports, when officers found the Corvette, Willis came out of a residence to ask them if something was wrong. He was arrested and officers found key fobs for several of the allegedly stolen vehicles in his pockets, according to reports.

Kansas City police also are investigating the thefts of two other vehicles reported stolen from a Kansas City dealership Jan. 22. A Ford F-150 pickup truck and a 2013 Kia were paid for with a $43,000 check written on a closed account.

Those two vehicles were found undamaged and returned to the dealer, according to reports.

Bond for Willis in the Johnson County case was set at $10,000. His next court appearance was scheduled for Thursday.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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