Lawsuits and DMV investigation target Rancho Santa Fe Autos for alleged fraud, breach of contract

Rancho Santa Fe Autos, located at 16077 San Dieguito Road, has been vacant.
(Luke Harold)

Two San Diego County residents allege the dealership is withholding tens of thousands of dollars from them after selling their luxury cars on consignment

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Pacific Beach resident Joey Rocco was expecting about $70,000 when he sold his Aston Martin on consignment through Rancho Santa Fe Autos.

But months passed and the company’s owner stopped responding to texts from Rocco, who said in a recently filed lawsuit and an interview that he still hasn’t received his money.

Three lawsuits, including Rocco’s, have been filed in San Diego County Superior Court over the last two months alleging fraud and breach of contract against Rancho Santa Fe Autos, an exotic car dealership in Rancho Santa Fe, and owner Adam Holeman. The DMV’s Office of Public Affairs also said there are “several” ongoing investigations involving the dealership, which had its occupational license revoked last November but allegedly continued to do business.

Rocco decided to sell his 2013 Aston Martin Vantage around March 2022. Rancho Santa Fe Autos charged a $3,500 fee to sell it on consignment, which Rocco preferred to other sellers who would’ve taken a percentage of the sale price.

An ad for the car on the Rancho Santa Fe Autos website, accessed through the Internet Archive, shows it on sale for just under $76,000 as of May 2022.

Rocco's Aston Martin when it was still listed on the Rancho Santa Fe Autos inventory page.
(Screenshot)

The car sold for $73,000 in February 2023, according to the lawsuit. Holeman asked Rocco for the title to the vehicle, but Rocco wanted the money first.

“And then he was very hard to get a hold of for the next couple weeks,” Rocco said in an interview. “At one point over a phone conversation, he said that I could come up and get the check, but that he would also be in my area the next day if that was easier for me.”

But the money never changed hands.

Screenshots from Rocco’s phone show that he followed up with multiple text messages throughout April 2023 with no response from Holeman. Rocco said he and his attorney made multiple trips to the dealership, but nobody was there.

Rancho Santa Fe Autos, located in a shopping center at 16077 San Dieguito Road in Rancho Santa Fe, was still vacant as of late July — no people, cars, furniture or lights on inside. Its website no longer has any cars listed on the inventory page. A phone number for the dealership leads to a voicemail greeting by Holeman, but the mailbox is full.

Rocco said he went to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, which referred the case to the investigations division at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A separate lawsuit involving another San Diego County resident has almost identical allegations. The plaintiff, Anthony Cannariato, alleges that he gave his 2021 Chevrolet Corvette to Rancho Santa Fe Autos to sell on consignment. It was listed for just under $93,000.

In June 2023, the lawsuit alleges, Holeman contacted Cannariato to tell him that the car had sold. But then the DMV informed Cannariato that Rancho Santa Fe Autos no longer had a valid dealership license, and Holeman cut off communication before paying the money he owed Cannariato from the sale.

Rancho Santa Fe Autos’ occupational license was revoked in November 2022, according to the DMV.

Sgt. Marcello Orsini, with the sheriff’s Major Crimes Division, said he thinks there were two cases regarding Rancho Santa Fe Autos that the department forwarded to the DMV. “The DMV investigators were already aware of this dealership and had other open cases,” he added via email.

The DMV’s Office of Public Affairs confirmed via email that there are “several on-going investigations resulting from complaints received regarding Rancho Santa Fe Autos.”

“Because these are open investigations,” the email added, “no information is available at this time.”

In another lawsuit, filed in June, a Fontana resident alleges that he purchased a Maserati that had been listed at just over $93,000 at Rancho Santa Fe Autos last year. But the dealership never provided the title to the vehicle or registered the vehicle in the buyer’s name. As a result, the plaintiff alleges that he hasn’t been able to legally drive it.

All of the pending lawsuits are civil cases. There aren’t any previous criminal cases in San Diego County Superior Court involving Holeman or Rancho Santa Fe Autos, according to a search of court records. A spokesperson from the district attorney’s office declined comment on whether prosecutors are investigating the recent allegations.

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