Bryan Cohen Feb. 7, 2014, 3:40pm
RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced a default judgment on Wednesday against a Buncombe County man who allegedly took upfront payments but failed to provide consumers with restored classic cars as promised.
Cooper filed a lawsuit against Robert McElreath and his companies in May after receiving complaints alleging that consumers wired money to McElreath but never received a restored Pontiac Trans Am as promised. Trans Ams were made popular by the 1977 movie "Smokey and the Bandit."
Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood granted Cooper's request for a default judgment against McElreath, Discount Automatic Classic Restorations, Common Man Classic Hot Rods, Pontiac Pros, Pick a Pony and Build-a-Bandit. Under the terms of the court order, McElreath and his businesses are permanently barred from conducting business in the state and McElreath must pay $840,293 in consumer refunds, pay $28,035,000 in civil penalties and release all consumers from their contracts.
"When you pay good money for something you expect a business to deliver, not take your money and run," Cooper said. "This court order sends a strong signal to anyone who might be tempted to do business the wrong way in North Carolina."
In addition to the civil case brought by Cooper's office, McElreath faces arrest on 26 related felony charges in Buncombe Country. McElreath is thought to have left the state to avoid arrest. If he is located, Cooper's office will attempt to recover any available funds from him.
"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."