NORTH SMITHFIELD — A con man who has been on the run from the law for two years after swindling thousands from his victims in motor vehicle scams was captured in New Jersey Wednesday, the Rhode Island State Police said.
Kevin Millette, 45, a former town resident, was arrested at the Rodeway Inn motel in Galloway, N.J., where he had been living under an assumed name for about month, said State Police Lt. Michael Winquist.
Acting on a tip, the State Police Violent Fugitive Task Force, in partnership with agents from the U.S. Marshal’s bureau, tracked Millette down at the motel, said Winquist.
Millette is wanted on a string of warrants from three states, including several from Rhode Island and others from New Hampshire and Florida. He is also a bail jumper from North Smithfield police charges pending since 2009, including a fraud case stemming from a ripoff involving former NHL hockey player Jeffrey Jillson.
In addition to the criminal charges, Jillson has filed a civil complaint in which Millette is accused of absconding with some $83,000 the hockey player had given him for motorcycle parts and a Mercedes Benz that he never received, according to papers filed in the case. Jillson is the son of North Smithfield Fire Chief Joel Jillson and now plays hockey in Europe.
The Jillson scam came some time after Millette had already done 30 months in federal prison after swindling a group of individuals in Virginia out of some $600,000 in 1998, the most lucrative con he’s known to have pulled off, according to WPRI-TV.
Many of the charges against Millette are felony counts of obtaining under false pretenses, and most are the result of a startlingly similar modus operandi, according to Winquist. His pattern is to slowly win the trust of victims by offering to share with them profits from the sale of collectible cars and motorcycles. He makes good on an initial series of promises in which the victims have put up the cash to purchase the vehicles before they are resold, restoring the principal, plus a modest profit. Ultimately, he reneges on one last, lucrative deal, vanishing with the victims’ up-front money.
“Millette would earn the trust of strangers by portraying himself as a successful automobile and motorcycle broker,” said State Police Supt. Steven G. O’Donnell. “He convinced these victims to entrust him with thousands of dollars to purchase rare automobiles and motorcycles for the purpose of selling them for profit in exchange for a ten percent return on their investment.”
The state police arrested him on a complaint filed against Millette last month by a man from whom he was renting an apartment in South Kingstown, said Winquist. The complainant told police he gave Millette $3,500 to buy a car on condition he return the principal plus the agreed-upon profit margin. The pattern was repeated with several more vehicles, and in every case the man got his principal back, plus some profit.
Winquist said Millette had been living in the man’s apartment for close to a year under the name Kevin Russo. Finally, said Winquist, Millette asked the landlord for $18,000 to buy a rare Harley Davidson motorcycle with a sidecar. Millette told him the motorcycle was to be presented to someone as a gift during a birthday party at pop singer Billy Joel’s residence in the Hamptons.
Millette vanished shortly after his landlord gave him the money, said Winquist.
Millette is being held at the Atlantic County House of Corrections on a fugitive from justice charge, State Police said. If he waives extradition, he could be returned to Rhode Island as early as next week to answer pending criminal complaints and warrants.