Updates on pending, previous cases against auction houses

Publish Date: 
Dec 4, 2012
By Holly J. Wagner

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a continuing investigation into the powersports auction business and alleged losses incurred by dealers that consign vehicles to certain firms that now find themselves the subject of complaints to state and federal authorities. What follows is a companion story to "Same players, different names? Another auction firm draws dealers' wrath" (click HERE for that story).

SEVERAL CIVIL CASES are pending against certain powersports auction house owners and employees who have engaged in similar practices in the past. Dealernews did not find any active criminal cases.

Charges filed in Georgia against John Vincent Trotter, Leon McGregor, Mary Mingle, Justin “A.C.” Wrenn, National Public Auction and My Auction Connection have been dropped with leave to refile, according to the Glynn County district attorney’s office. The parties were charged with theft by deception, theft by conversion and violations of the state’s Racketeering and Corrupt Influenced Organizations (RICO) Act in September 2011. The charges were dropped for lack of evidence but could be refilled if more evidence comes to light, said Greg McMichael, investigator with the district attorney’s office.

The Tennessee Auctioneer Commission is pursuing disciplinary action against Trotter, a spokesman said, although Trotter has allowed his auctioneer license to lapse and said he has taken a sales job for another company.

Trotter’s National Public Auction/The Auction Connection bankruptcy, filed Jan. 24, remains open. Among claims in that bankruptcy is a lawsuit filed by Dixon Polaris of Dixon, Calif., back in June 2010. Dixon is seeking to recover funds from the sale of 44 ATVs the company sent to auction in November 2009. The vehicles tallied $318,650 of invoice, but sold for $181,550. The dealer’s attorney, Kristen Fecteau, also asserts that the dealer lost another $40,000 in dealer incentives because buyer information wasn’t provided to Dixon after the auction, and more when My Auction Connection/National Public Auction failed to return the crates.

Trotter’s attorneys in the Dixon case have argued that “per the contract terms, the auction was to be ‘Absolute with Rebate Protection Plan’ as stated in large, bold letters on the face of the contract…Further language in the contract shows expressly that no price was guaranteed and that sellers are relying on their own judgment and not any statement by the auction company for pricing terms.”

They go on to argue that the Rebate Protection Plan was only in effect if the invoice price of the vehicles was disclosed before the auction, and that in this case it was not. Dixon’s attorney argues the list of items submitted for approval before the auction includes all the required information.

Rodney Mark Settles, formerly of Tennessee-based America’s Powersports Auction and Nashville Powersports Auction as well as the short-lived West Coast Public Auction of Madera, Calif., is incarcerated in the federal correctional facility in Memphis, Tenn., on unrelated drug charges. He is scheduled for release Feb. 12, 2015.

Bankruptcy for Elite Auction Sales and former owner Anthony Scott Hitt, filed Sept. 25, 2009, remains open, along with a case filed by an insurance company seeking to recover $59,000 related to a transaction with Big Tom’s Custom Motorcycles of Belle Vernon, Pa.

In that case, the dealer alleged that he sent four Titan motorcycles to an Elite auction in July 2008, wasn’t paid for two that were sold, and that the two unsold bikes were returned, but only after “Elite and/or Mr. Hitt lost the keys, allowed the other two motorcycles to be ridden hard and rendered significantly less valuable,” according to the complaint on behalf of Erie Insurance Co., which paid Big Tom’s $25,000 on a claim.

Hitt’s attorneys are contending the contested funds should be discharged as a debt of Elite; Erie’s attorney argues that Hitt should be held personally responsible and the debt should not be discharged.