The hacker set up a bogus Google email account in the name of Beau Townsend Ford-Lincoln's commercial accounts manager, then used it to send phony wire transfer instructions written "in substandard English" to Don Hinds Ford. The stores had done about 18 prior dealer-to-dealer trades, but payments in those situations were made by check, not wire transfers, according to court documents.
The fraudster, employing a "man-in-the-middle" scheme, intercepted and sent emails while both stores believed they were communicating directly with each other, court documents said.
Don Hinds Ford unwittingly wired the funds to a bogus Texas bank account in the name "K.B. Key Logistics LLC," picked up the Explorers and received the manufacturer's certificates of origin.
When the stores discovered the fraud about a week later, they notified federal law enforcement agencies.
Google determined that somebody in Nigeria had created the phony email account.
When Don Hinds Ford refused to return the Explorers, Beau Townsend Ford-Lincoln sued for breach of contract, conversion and unjust enrichment. Don Hinds Ford sold the Explorers.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Credit Co. held Beau Townsend Ford-Lincoln in default of its floorplan financing agreement because the store hadn't paid for the crossovers, according to court papers.
None of the purloined money was recovered.
"We know what bank account it went to. There were three individuals on the account," said Beau Town-send Ford-Lincoln's lawyer, James Hill of Beavercreek, Ohio.
Indianapolis attorney Brian Jones, who represents Don Hinds Ford, said the criminal investigation remains open, "but we've had no communication from law enforcement."