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N.C. Man Told To Stop Taking Money To Restore Cars

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File photo of a Pontiac Trans Am. (Photo by Stuart Atkins/Getty Images)

File photo of a Pontiac Trans Am. (Photo by Stuart Atkins/Getty Images)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — State officials are trying to put the brakes on a North Carolina man who they say took more than $2 million from people all over the world to restore Pontiac Trans Ams but did not deliver the cars or return the customers’ money.

Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday that a judge issued a temporary restraining order against Robert Allen McElreath, whose businesses were listed at addresses in Black Mountain and Fairview. The order issued last week tells McElreath to stop taking orders and advance deposits for automobile restoration in North Carolina.

“Promising consumers a custom car, taking their money and then leaving them high and dry is no way to do business,” Cooper said in a news release. “We want to stop bandits from making off with people’s money.”

Among McElreath’s business names is Build-A-Bandit, a reference to the 1977 movie “Smokey and the Bandit,” which featured the Trans Am. Other business names include Pick a Pony, Pontiac Pros, Common Man Classic Hot Rods and Discount Automotive Classic Reconstruction, Cooper said.

Since June 2012, the Attorney General’s Office has received 52 written complaints from people from as far away as Australia who signed contracts with McElreath for automobile restoration but never got what they were promised, Cooper said. In addition, 26 warrants have been issued against McElreath for obtaining property by false pretenses.

Law enforcement officers believe McElreath has left the state, Cooper said, and the AP didn’t find contact information for him.

The complaint filed by Cooper’s office lists Erica Kampert as an associate, and consumers also name her in their complaints. In a phone interview with the Associated Press, Kampert said she was unaware of the TRO and doesn’t know where McElreath is.

Kampert said she did paperwork for McElreath, working as his secretary for a while. “Since I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s best I not to talk to you,” she said before hanging up.

The complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office said McElreath advertised “Smokey and the Bandit” cars on Internet auction sites. Bidders who lost got a call from McElreath offering them a car at a discounted price, Cooper said.

Consumers signed a contract and wired thousands of dollars before work began, the complaint said. Consumers said they never got their cars and couldn’t get their money back.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ordered McElreath to appear in court June 10. He did not appear at the hearing last week when the temporary restraining order was issued.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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