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Beware, car enthusiasts.
In a trend that has car enthusiasts on high alert, fraudulent classic car restoration schemes are surging across the nation and even attracting federal attention. What was once a domain of automotive passion and craftsmanship has morphed into fertile ground for criminals who exploit the emotional and financial investment collectors have in vintage vehicles.
Learn more about the difference between a good deal and a scam here.
Earlier this year, Clark P. Rittersbach, who operated Concours Classic Motor Cars in Macedon, New York, was charged with wire fraud by U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross. Rittersbach allegedly deceived his clients to the tune of $1.15 million, claiming to restore their vintage cars but either neglecting to complete the work or not doing it at all. These deceptive practices stretched beyond local or even national boundaries, as Rittersbach targeted international clients as well.
But it’s not just Rittersbach; other enterprises are also guilty. Last year in Lawton, Iowa, The Healey Werks Corp faced a $7 million judgment for breaching an agreement related to the restoration and sale of three classic cars. In another audacious case, a couple from Washington state, operating under the business name Defenders Northwest LLC, were accused of conducting an elaborate eight-year scam. This scheme allegedly involved fraudulent billing, delays, mechanics’ liens, and even retaliatory attacks against those who challenged them.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of these scams is how skillfully these criminals have integrated themselves into the classic car community. Through convincing social media profiles and glowing online reviews, they present a false image of credibility and expertise, lulling potential customers into a false sense of security.
Given the gravity of the situation and the millions of dollars at risk, federal authorities are stepping up their game. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, led by Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Miraglia, is getting involved to unravel these complex scams and offer some measure of justice to the defrauded collectors.
For the time being, both victims and law enforcement agencies are cautioning collectors to be extra vigilant. Thorough background checks and extreme due diligence are becoming the need of the hour. Anyone considering restoring a classic car should take every precaution to verify the credibility of restoration shops, or they may find their vintage dream car turning into a costly nightmare.
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