God Wants You to Roll!: The $21 Million "Miracle Car" Scam-How Two Teenagers Fleeced America's Churchgoers

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9780786714438: God Wants You to Roll!: The $21 Million

Nineteen-year-old security guards Robert Gomez and James Nichols played Americans’ love for cars against their faith in God in one of the greatest frauds in U.S. history: The $21 Million “Miracle Cars” Scam.

In the most astounding story of precocious criminal genius since CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, John Phillips III takes readers inside the "Miracle Cars" scam begun in 1994 by dead-end security guards Robert "Buddha" Gomez and James Nichols. The boys conned thousands of customers from Los Angeles to New York-mostly devout churchgoers-into buying bargain-priced cars from the estate of Gomez's deceased millionaire father. The cars cost just a few thousand dollars apiece-Dad's dying gift to his fellow Bible believers.

Yet, there was no dead millionaire father. There were no cars. And there is still no trace of $8.7 million of the $21 million stolen by the now-convicted Gomez and Nichols.

Armed with a list of cars and evangelical charisma, Buddha and James offered a fictional slice of the good life as a reward for piety, and the pious blindly bought in. They kept the con alive for five years, cast it nationwide through a network of pastors who sold cars during church services, and briefly realized their dreams until the Feds brought them down. While converting millions of dollars into gambling chips, Buddha became a legend of the California casinos, sitting at poker tables with pornographer Larry Flynt; Nichols began a collection of real cars valued at $343,000.

GOD WANTS YOU TO ROLL is the most elaborate, cruel, and irresistible true crime story to come along in years.

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About the Author:

John Phillips III has written for "Car and Driver," "Sports Illustrated," "Toronto Globe & Mail," "Harper’s," "Elle," and the "Cleveland Plain Dealer." He was executive editor of "Car and Driver" for seven years and is currently the magazine’s editor-at-large, contributing features and a regular column. He has conducted hundreds of interviews with the boys, their victims, and law enforcement officials, and remains in touch with Gomez and Nichols, who are each serving more than twenty years in prison. Phillips lives in rural Michigan.

From Publishers Weekly:

Car and Driver editor-at-large Phillips offers an entertaining account of the scam dreamed up by two California teenagers. Phillips tells how, in 1994, 18-year-old James Nichols and 19-year-old Robert Gomez, who met while working as security guards, concocted their fraud. Passing himself off as the heir to a $400 million fortune, Gomez convinced the congregation of Nichols's African-American parents' church that he wanted to give away hundreds of cars from his late father's corporation, Miracle Cars, to needy fellow Christians. Recipients would advance about $1,000 to cover expenses, until the estate was settled and the autos could be shipped. The response was, needless to say, so positive and profitable that the young men expanded their operations across the country, netting $21 million. Gomez, a compulsive gambler, laundered the proceeds through casinos. When complaints from consumers who never received their cars sparked an inquiry by a Missouri police chief, the conspiracy came to an end in a federal courtroom, where Gomez and Nichols (who have had a falling-out) were sentenced to long prison terms. Although the author's attention to detail sometimes overwhelms his text, this story is a page-turner. Photos. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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