'Smokey and the Bandit' Car Seller Banned from Business in NC
A Buncombe County man who took consumers' money but failed to provide them restored classic cars as promised is now barred from business in North Carolina.
"When you pay good money for something you expect a business to deliver, not take your money and run," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said. "This court order sends a strong signal to anyone who might be tempted to do business the wrong way in North Carolina."
Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood granted Cooper's request Tuesday for a default judgment against Robert Allen McElreath and his companies Build-a-Bandit, Pick a Pony, Pontiac Pros, Common Man Classic Hot Rods and Discount Automatic Classic Restorations.
Under the court order, McElreath and his companies are permanently barred from conducting future business in North Carolina. The court also ordered McElreath to pay $840,293 in consumer refunds, release all consumers from their contracts and pay $28,035,000 million in civil penalties.
In addition to the civil case brought by Cooper, McElreath faces arrest on 26 related felony charges in Buncombe County. He is believed to have left the state to avoid arrest and does not have any known assets. If McElreath is located, the North Carolina Attorney General's Office will attempt to recover any funds available from him.
Cooper filed suit against McElreath and his businesses in May of 2013 after getting complaints from consumers across the country and overseas who had wired money to McElreath, but had never gotten a restored Pontiac Trans Am as promised. Trans Ams were first made popular by the 1977 hit movie 'Smokey and the Bandit.'
Consumers who bid in an online auction for a Trans Am but didn't win received a follow-up call from McElreath offering them a car at a discounted price. Consumers were asked to immediately wire thousands of dollars before work could begin, but very little work, if any, ever got done. Some customers who supplied their own vehicles for McElreath to restore later found that thousands of dollars' worth of parts were missing.
"If you're asked to pay money up front, be cautious," Cooper said. "For a major purchase like a car, it's just not a good idea to pay thousands of dollars for something you've never seen."