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Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

St. Marys man receives nearly 15 years in prison for business scams

Two Mercer County men lost over $100,000 each

By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA - An area businessman is heading to prison for scamming numerous area victims including two southern Mercer County men who each lost more than $100,000.
Brian K. Selby, 41, 234 Southway Drive, St. Marys - the former owner of Affordable Motor Sales in downtown St. Marys - was sentenced Monday to 14 years and 11 months in prison during a standing-room-only hearing in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court. He was ordered to pay a total of $326,902 in restitution to the victims.
Selby was convicted of scamming 18 people - local and out-of-state residents - and defrauding four banks, the state's Bureau of Worker's Compensation (BWC) and the Department of Taxation. The crimes took place from 2003 to the fall of 2007.
Auglaize County Prosecutor Ed Pierce told The Daily Standard that Selby persuaded people to invest in Lil' Bugs (small, gas-powered vehicles) that he never purchased, sold extended vehicle warranties he never secured, failed to pay employee withholding taxes to the state and lied by telling the BWC he had no employees to avoid paying into their fund.
Currently, there are nine civil lawsuits pending against Selby filed by his victims.
In July, Selby pleaded guilty to the following felony charges: five counts of theft, two counts of failure to remit taxes and theft, and worker's compensation fraud.
The two Mercer County victims suffered the greatest monetary loss after investing their life savings with Selby, they said. One is a 35-year-old man who lost $117,000 and the other is an 85-year-old man who gave Selby $111,000 during a four-month period. The elderly man called Selby a "crook" and shared his feelings aloud in court.
"All my life I worked, 55 years...he got my money. Where's my money, Brian?" he asked Selby, who was standing at the defendant's table.
Pierce said the younger victim was persuaded to obtain credit cards, which Selby then used without permission.
Pierce called the prison sentence "absolutely appropriate" but said it brings little satisfaction to the victims.
"The downside is these people will never get their money back," he said. He also said Selby is a top-notch scam artist who "has a way of drawing people in."
Selby spoke for about 15 minutes on his own behalf, calling his actions "bad business practices." He attempted to draw pity from the judge for his obesity problem.
"I weigh 478 pounds and I've been obese probably about 15 years," he told Visiting Judge Sumner Walters of Van Wert County.
He spoke in detail about the painful "sanitary issues" he deals with due to his weight problem, which he says contributes to depression, anxiety and mood swings. He asked the judge to give him probation or supervised release instead of prison time so he could have gastric bypass surgery, lose weight and get a job to pay restitution to his victims.
Selby, who has been incarcerated since his arrest 125 days ago, claimed he suffers "mobility problems" in jail and cannot get the therapy or medications he needs. "Heavy people" are outcasts there, he said.
"I don't want to suffer anymore," he added.
He blamed his businesses' lending company, Dealer Service Corporation, for inducing panic among his customers and investors. DSC officials came to his car lot in August and repossessed his inventory while he was serving 30 days in a federal prison for loan fraud, he said.
"I felt we would have turned things around...," he said. "I really do care about people."
Prior to his sentencing, Selby was escorted to another courtroom where his divorce was being finalized.
"Today I lost my wife of 26 years," he said, adding his only child, a 19-year-old daughter, will be hurt the most if he is sent to prison.
His daughter, who was present in the courtroom, broke into sobs upon hearing her father's prison sentence.
Walters appeared unmoved by Selby's plea for probation and sentenced him to the prison term requested by Pierce.
"I'm not going to give you a fine. I want every penny you have" to go toward victim reimbursement, the judge told Selby.
Following the hearing, Pierce praised the St. Marys Police Department for their work investigating the in depth scandal and providing the evidence needed to get a conviction. He said he hopes the case is a warning to other area residents.
"If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true," Pierce added.
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