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Car salesman arrested for auto theft, illegally check cashing, police say

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Mar 01 2013 10:19:48 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 01 2013 10:24:31 PM CST
PALMER TWP., Pa. -

A car salesman is in trouble with the law for stealing a vehicle from his former employer two weeks ago and illegally cashing checks made out to customers three times last year, officials said.

Melvin B. Caldwell took a green 2011 Kia Soul from Brown Daub Kia,
3600 William Penn Highway, Palmer Twp. Northampton Co., at about 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 and illegally cashed the checks totaling $700 on Jan. 23, Feb. 9 and April 2, 2012, officials said.

The car theft was reported last Friday, the day after Caldwell's girlfriend phoned the dealership's general sales manger, Jose Pinargote, to say she found one of his cars was parked at her house when she came home from work.

Pinargote told police that Caldwell last worked at Brown Daub Kia on Feb. 15, and surveillance footage from the dealership showed Caldwell driving off in the $18,682 car that evening, after he unlocked a box where the key to the vehicle was kept, officials said.

Caldwell told police on Monday that he took the car because he did not have a way home, and was scared to return it afterward, officials said, adding that the car was recovered at Caldwell's home in the 300 block of West Wilkes Barre St., Easton, parked on a parking pad at the rear of the residence.

Caldwell, 29, was arraigned Thursday on charges of theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle, and committed to the Northampton County Prison on $15,000 bail, according to court documents.

Caldwell admitted to illegally cashing the checks, which was discovered during the car theft investigation, officials said.

The dealership's general manager, Gary Eckley, gave police the checks made out to three customers that had Caldwell's signature endorsing them on back, officials said.

The three customers told police they did not sign the checks over to Caldwell, officials added.

Caldwell was arraigned on charges of forgery, receiving stolen property and theft by deception, and bail was set at $25,000, court papers show.

A preliminary hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. March 8 on the car theft charge and 9:45 a.m. March 8 on the forgery charge.