MESA, Ariz. — Buying a new car can be exciting, but for 18 Valley residents, it turned into a nightmare after they said they lost nearly $50,000 in cash.
All the victims used the same salesman, a man identified in police records and lawsuits as Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz.
Velarde promised to deliver the cars within weeks, but the victims never got a car or all the money they gave him as a down payment, according to documents.
“I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Angelica Cabrera said.
Cabrera, her father, and brother combined gave Velarde $10,000 in cash for two trucks and a car they wanted to buy from him in June of 2021 at their Mesa home. He gave them receipts and told them their new cars would be transported from Nevada and arrive in Arizona within a week.
“That weekend, the cars didn’t come, and he just kept saying excuse after excuse. ‘Oh, the cars are not here; they’re going to take a little longer.’ And it went like that for months,” Cabrera said.
After pressure from Cabrera and her family, Velarde returned $2,800 on August 2, but that was the last time they heard from him, according to police.
“Once two, three weeks passed by, and it was just excuse after excuse, that’s when we were like ‘okay, this guy is scamming us,’” she said.
Cabrera’s mother filed a report with the Mesa Police Department while she took to Facebook and found out her family wasn’t the only one out of their money.
18 alleged victims
On January 25, Edna Márquez said in a Facebook post that a man who had promised to sell her a car had allegedly taken off with her $5,000 in cash. She identified the man as Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz and included a picture of his Mexican voter ID card.
“I published it to see if anyone recognized him and would tell him to pay me back, that I needed that money for my medical expenses,” Márquez said. “I was surprised I wasn’t the only one.”
The single mother of two suffers from multiple sclerosis. Her condition worsens by the day, which requires her to see doctors multiple times a week, she said.
“My need for a car led me to make that decision and trust my friend that referred me to him,” Márquez said.
Márquez agreed to purchase a Jeep Cherokee from Velarde. Her money was at the bank, and since she didn’t have a car, Velarde allegedly volunteered to take her.
“He came to my house, and we went to the bank,” she said. “He got in line for me because I can’t stand for too long because of my condition, and I gave him the money back at my home.”
Márquez handed Velarde $5,000 in cash, and like Cabrera, she also got a receipt for her “purchase” on June 4, 2021. The Jeep Cherokee was to arrive days later, but that didn’t happen.
Velarde told her there had been problems with the freight the cars were in, and he needed more time, she said. Márquez asked for her money back.
“I told him I could wait for him, but I needed an act of good faith, and that was we go to a notary public, and he would agree to pay me back,” Márquez said. “He came, picked me up again, and we got a letter done we both signed.”
The letter reads:
“This letter informs anyone that Jorge Carlos Velarde is going to pay in cash Edna L. Marquez Flores a lump sum of $5,000 on Sunday, June 27, 2021. This is for the 2017 Jeep Cherokee ZRT Sport. In case of no payment, she has the right to proceed in legal matters.”
But Velarde never returned a dime.
“He just crossed his arms and took the money, with no care about my medical condition,” Márquez said.
So, she sued.
On January 7, 2022, a judge ruled in her favor. She published all her documents and evidence online.
“It went viral in one day,” Márquez said.
Márquez’s social media post was shared 1,700 times and got nearly 900 comments. People shared their own stories about alleged similar encounters with a man they also identified as Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz.
“We just haven’t been able to hear back from him or anything,” Ana Orozco said.
Orozco, her sister, and her mother gave Velarde $6,000 in cash and Orozco’s 2014 Mercedes in exchange for three vehicles they never got, according to court records.
“He would just give us excuses; he was like, ‘my son is dying,' and then it was that his mom passed away,” Orozco said. “Obviously, you end up feeling bad for him, like [maybe] life is not going your way.”
12News learned of 18 victims who lost $47,300 in cash, and two cars valued at $23,000, according to police reports.
All the victims said that Velarde gave them excuses for weeks. In messages shared with 12News, Velarde is heard saying his mom died and that she “had been sick for two days.”
In another audio message, Velarde said, “my brother had an accident last night. Thank God he’s fine.”
Orozco’s mother received a video from Velarde where he showed an infant lying in a bed. Velarde claimed it was his son who had been sick at a hospital but was “finally at home” in his bed.
“I felt bad, honestly,” Javier Bojorquez said. “He called me with a broken voice he told me his mom had died. I fell for it, and I said I’d give him time.”
Bojorquez gave Velarde $4,500 as a down payment for a truck on August 3, 2021. His last contact with him was in December after repeated excuses and no money returned.
In all cases, Velarde eventually stopped responding to all the potential buyers.
12News made multiple attempts to reach Velarde and his home via phone but were unsuccessful.
Mesa police launched an investigation after they received six reports of fraud involving 12 victims relating to one suspect: Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz.
Police reports show detectives spoke to Velarde at least three times in 2021, at a police station, at his home, and via phone in September, October, and December.
In September, Velarde met an officer at a police station after a woman reported she had agreed to trade her 2015 BMW and $3,500 in cash for a 2018 Jeep Rubicon, but the salesman had not produced the car, nor had he returned her vehicle, according to records.
Police let him go, as Velarde agreed to refund the victim her cash and the money he got for selling the BMW. At the time of the report, the car's title had been switched to another owner, according to documents.
In October, officers responded to Velarde’s Mesa home. A woman named Maria reported she gave the salesman $7,000 for a car he never produced, and he had not paid her back.
“Jorge acknowledged having made the transaction with Maria and Jorge acknowledged that he had not provided the vehicle he promised and that he has not refunded Maria’s money,” the police report said.
Then in December, while investigating yet another report of alleged fraud involving a woman who paid $4,000 for a car, officers spoke to Velarde on the phone, and he allegedly “admitted… that it is wrong what he is doing, and that he needed to change,” according to records.
During that same phone conversation, police said Velarde “expressed remorse for his ‘wrongdoing,’” documents suggest.
While investigating, officers noted several calls of service to Velarde’s home involving fraud reports. Since different officers had responded to those calls, it wasn’t until December’s investigation that they linked the reports to the same alleged suspect.
According to records, on August 1, 2021, Velarde called the police because “there were some subjects at his residence who he owed money to, and they were refusing to leave.”
Six victims positively identified Velarde in a photo lineup as the man who they said took their money, records said, including a woman whose civil lawsuit against Velarde is still in progress.
Mesa police submitted their case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which turned down the case.
Records said the agency found prosecutors “cannot prove these transactions were criminal.”
In a statement to 12News, MCAO said the case “does not meet our charging standard of a reasonable likelihood of conviction and therefore charges will not be filed at this time.”
“We recognize that the business practices of Jorge Carlos Velarde Cruz are troubling and negatively impacting members of our community. Unfortunately, the facts and evidence, in this case, do not demonstrate criminal intent that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This office is extremely sympathetic to those who have had dealings with this individual,” the statement read.
Another agency, the Office of Inspector General of Arizona, tells 12News they handle criminal cases involving cars, and they are willing to assist Mesa police.
12News informed Mesa police about this, and a spokesperson said they are looking into it.
“We all worked hard for that money, and it’s just not fair that someone just comes and takes your money,” Cabrera said. “He needs to stop doing that, and I want him to pay for what he’s done.”
If you had a similar experience, please contact reporter Adriana Loya at Aloya@12news.com.
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