Exposing Luxury Car Scams: Learnings from the CNC Motors Case

Clayton Thom, the owner of a high-end California dealership, has recently been charged with tax fraud and alleged theft of over $4 million from 35 luxury car owners.

From 2018 to 2021, he orchestrated a large-scale car scam that involved manipulating dozens of consignment deals, exploiting the trust of unsuspecting customers, and using their prized possessions to settle personal debts.

Learn more about this recent scandal and how it can serve as a cautionary tale for every luxury car owner out there.

What Happened at the CNC Motors Dealership?

According to investigators, Thom encouraged his customers to place their high-value vehicles on consignment at his Upland dealership.

These victims handed over their prized possessions to Thom with the contractual agreement that if the car sold, Thom’s dealership would send payment within twenty days of sale. Alternatively, if the vehicle didn’t sell within a predetermined time frame, it would be returned to the owner promptly, unless alternative arrangements have been made.

However, many of these victims were taken advantage of.

In several cases, it was alleged that Thom sold the vehicles and collected the proceeds from the new buyers, but never honored the consignment agreement to pay back the original owners. Instead, he allegedly pocketed the money and used it to settle his personal debts and secure loans.

Thom is also accused of having obstructed the new buyers from obtaining rightful ownership. He neglected to endorse, date, and deliver the necessary certificates of ownership and registration, and in certain cases, provided counterfeit titles.

Law enforcement and local news played a pivotal role in exposing Thom’s scam. On Nov. 1, 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced his office had filed criminal charges against Thom, along with his former business manager who helped perpetuate the crimes, Valerie Tanaka.

With 37 felony counts of grand theft and one count of elder theft, it would seem that Thom is finally facing justice; however, his exploitation serves as a stark reminder to luxury vehicle enthusiasts out there that car scams can happen to anyone. The allure of a seamless transaction at a high-end dealership can blind sellers to potential scams.

Luxury car owners, beware – not all dealerships are what they appear to be.

What We Can Learn

If you’re contemplating parting ways with your luxury vehicle, this case underscores the importance of vigilance. Scammers in the exotic car world are not limited to Thom’s case; they can be found in Texas, California, and beyond. Luxury car scams often involve wire fraud, as seen in Thom’s evasion of California sales tax between 2017 and 2021.

As an exotic car buyer, We Buy Exotics urges subscribers and potential sellers to read between the lines and recognize the red flags. The CNC Motors scam highlights that even the most reputable-sounding dealerships can turn out to be scammers. Having a sense of caution and performing thorough research before trusting a car dealership with your luxury vehicle is essential.

This caution also extends to exotic car enthusiasts considering renting their dream car. A rental car scam involving luxury vehicles is not unheard of. Don’t be swayed by the promise of a new car experience; vetting the rental car dealership is crucial to avoid falling prey to scams.

Luxury car sellers: look out for discrepancies in paperwork, especially regarding driver’s licenses and certificates of ownership. Don’t let a seemingly legitimate dealership become the backdrop for a luxury car scam.

In the world of exotic cars, transparency is key. The CNC Motors case is a wake-up call for luxury car enthusiasts – don’t let the dream of selling your prized possession turn into a nightmare. Be informed, be vigilant, and safeguard your luxury car investment.

Choose The Efficient, Modern Option

We Buy Exotics pledges to prioritize integrity and reliability, offering subscribers a trustworthy platform for luxury car transactions. Whether you’re selling an exotic car you own or swapping a lease, the safest and easiest method for getting fair compensation for your vehicle is through We Buy Exotics.

We purchase:

  • Ferraris
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Porsches
  • Audi
  • Bentleys
  • BMWs
  • McLarens
  • Aston Martins
  • Lamborghinis


At We Buy Exotics, we make the selling process as fast as the cars you like to drive. Selling your car and receiving your cash all happen within four easy steps:

  1. Submit your VIN, model and make information​​​​
  2. Access your cash offer in just minutes
  3. Accept your offer via phone or computer
  4. Schedule the pickup time

No matter where you are, you can receive a cash offer within minutes, and no matter where you’ll be, we will schedule a convenient pick-up to finalize the exchange.

Submit your info today to get your instant cash offer!