Former Florence car dealer says he's not guilty of swindling banks, investors

Rex Matthews outside the federal courthouse in Florence on Tuesday, May 17. (Tonya Brown/WPDE)

Rex Matthews pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday morning to accusations he defrauded and swindled banks and investors at his former car dealership in Florence, according to federal court documents.

Matthews was indicted by a federal grand jury last month on charges in connection with fraud at his business Carolina Cars, LLC, in Florence, according to the indictment.

It says Matthews' car dealership was a buy here, pay here business that provided loans for high risk customers.

The indictment says Matthews obtained funding for these loans by promising investors 12 percent annual return on their investments and by promising that vehicle loans made with the investments would be secured by the vehicle's title.

The indictment says, "From in or about 2006, to in or about 2012, Rex Allen Matthews knowingly did devise and intend to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud financial institutions and investors by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representation and promises."

The indictment goes on to say Matthews would cause false loan applications to be submitted to financial institutions to enable customers of Carolina Cars, LLC, to purchase vehicles knowing the vehicles would be pledged as collateral for the loans.

"Matthews would supply investors with duplicate titles or copies of vehicle titles to make it appear the investors loans to customers of Carolina Cars, LLC, were secured by collateral, according to the indictment.

Court documents say Matthews obtained directly or indirectly as the result of the offenses in the indictment $1,365,211.26.

Matthews said his faith will help him prevail over the charges against him.

"It'll work out. The good Lord will take care of the rest. Believe in that," said Matthews.

Two men who said they were victims of Matthews scheme came out to his arraignment.

They spoke on the condition of anonymity and said Matthews duped them out of nearly $300,000.

One man said Matthews is a very nice person, but he needs to spend some time in prison for what he did.

A Federal Magistrate set Matthews' bond at $30,000.

A condition of his bond is that he cannot travel out-of-state without pre-authorization from U.S. Department of Probation.

Matthews was appointed a public defender to represent him in this case.

A trial date hasn't been set.

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