UPDATE: There was an error in our previous reporting that Honda of Toms River was the victim.  Honda of Toms River was the employer of Martin D’Amato for a brief time.  This is the only connection Honda of Toms River has to this story.  We regret this error and corrections can be found within the article with the proper victim named, and confirmed by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

A former employee of the Pine Belt Nissan of Toms River was arrested and charged with stealing more than 1 million dollars from this dealership.

Martin D'Amato, 37, of Beachwood worked at Pine Belt Nissan of Toms River for 12 years for running this billing scheme where he used their American Express credit card and charged it for advertising, according to an OPRA request filed with the OCPO.

D'Amato resigned from Pine Belt Nissan on October 14, 2021, when "questioned about these charges".

He is accused of using the credit card between September 9, 2020, and September 25, 2021 and stealing more than $ 1 million during that time from Pine Belt.

The announcement of charges for Money Laundering and Theft came from the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

D'Amato currently sits in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing after allegedly committing the financial crime where he misappropriated more than 1.3-million dollars from the dealership through several shell companies he set up, according to the investigation run by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office Economic Crime Squad.

(Photo Courtesy: Ocean County Prosecutor's Office)
(Photo Courtesy: Ocean County Prosecutor's Office)
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His alleged nefarious activity came to light in October 2021 when the OCPO-ECS said that they were contacted by "an automobile dealership located in Toms River regarding a fictitious billing scheme which appeared to have been committed by a former employee, Martin D’Amato."

The dealership found some discrepancies where credit card costs topped budget amounts.

In his capacity working at the dealership, D'Amato was in charge of digital advertising, according to the OCPO, "he was authorized to hire freelance advertising and marketing companies to promote the dealership." 

Ocean County Prosecutors Office. (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)
Ocean County Prosecutors Office. (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)
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The OCPO uncovered the full scope of his scheme in that he set up several, but limited, liability companies he controlled to make it look like he "was retaining legitimate advertising and marketing services for the dealership."

He would then charge the dealer corporate credit card "for services never rendered by these fictitious shell companies.'

D'Amato is then accused of trying to remain stealth under the guise of his shell companies as he would bill the dealership for services using an online payment processing service, according to the OCPO, and he then transferred stolen proceeds to accounts he controlled so that he could use the money for his benefit.

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Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Squad arrested D'Amato on Monday.

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