A former Santa Rosa, Calif., RV dealer was sentenced Friday (May 2) to 10 years in prison for stealing more than $250,000 from his customers, according to The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa.
Richard Anthony Cota, 58, sold used RVs on consignment at his Country Roads RV lot on Santa Rosa Avenue, but authorities said he didn’t pay the owners.
Santa Rosa police said more than a dozen sellers were victimized in 1996 and 1997.
Buyers of the used RVs never received titles to the vehicles, investigators said.
Cota originally pleaded no contest to grand theft in 2001. He was placed on probation after promising to repay the stolen money, but raised only $12,000 of the $140,000 that wasn’t reimbursed by victims’ insurers.
Cota was jailed for violating probation in December when he failed to make a court-ordered payment.
He was sentenced Friday by Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Cerena Wong.
Cota’s attorney, Jack Montgomery, said his client wanted to repay the full amount but needed more time. Montgomery said Cota tried to raise money by selling commodities and prefabricated homes.
He said Cota got in trouble when his business started losing money and he took cash from one RV seller to pay another.
“The house of cards collapsed,” Montgomery said. “It was not a scheme to defraud anyone.”
Montgomery said his client should get less than the 10-year sentence recommended by prosecutors and the Probation Department.
Deputy District Attorney Jerome Mautner said Cota is a con artist who made lots of promises but never made a serious effort to repay his victims. He said there’s no chance Cota will come up with the money.
At earlier hearings, RV owners said they suffered financial hardships and health problems because Cota failed to pay them after he sold their vehicles.
Under the court-ordered restitution plan, Cota was to have repaid his victims about $15,000 annually for 10 years.