State initiates criminal investigation

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Nonpayment of taxes, fees may lead to federal charges for former dealership owner

By Sharon Graves



The News-Democrat

The Kentucky State Police and the local commonwealth’s attorney’s office are investigating the former owner of the Carrollton Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealership.

The dealership. located at 2279 State Hwy. 227, recently was closed by court order after owner Todd Nelson of Hendersonville, Tenn., failed to meet the terms of a financial agreement with DaimlerChrysler Financial Services.

Following a report in the Aug. 20 News-Democrat, which advised customers having trouble obtaining titles for vehicles purchased at the dealership, officials said the Kentucky Vehicle Commissioner’s office in Frankfort was inundated with calls.

The state office, in turn, contacted Jim Crawford, the commonwealth’s attorney in Carrollton, and KSP, asking for an investigation of Nelson and the dealership to determine if any crimes had been committed, said Leigh Ann Roberts, a crime victim advocate in Crawford’s office.

“We are trying to compile a list of customers that have been affected by the Todd Nelson auto group,” Roberts said. “We are working with KSP to determine if a crime has been committed. So far we have a list of 40 to 50 customers affected, and we think we have everyone who purchased a vehicle in the last 60 days.”

During that 60-day period, the dealership had sold vehicles, but apparently had not paid the taxes, license and registration fees on those vehicles, even though the dealership allegedly had taken money for those costs from buyers, according to documents filed by Chrysler in a lawsuit in which the corporation sought control of the dealership. Chrysler was granted control of the Carrollton location Aug. 25 by Circuit Court Judge Stephen L. Bates.

Because the respective government agencies did not receive the funds for the taxes and other fees, titles have not been issued for those vehicles. If proven that Nelson and the dealership failed to pay the taxes and fees on the vehicles, criminal charges may be filed.

Because of this, Nelson could be charged with theft by failure to make required disposition, a felony, Roberts said.

In addition to allegedly not paying the taxes and fees, Nelson was charged by Chrysler with failure to pay more than $2 million owed to the corportation, according to court documents.

Along with the writ of possession that gave Chrysler the right to take over the dealership, the corporation also received a temporary injunction to keep Nelson or anyone else connected to the operation off the premises.

By Tuesday evening, Aug. 26, Chrysler had emptied the dealership lot. Fourteen truckloads carried 110 unsold vehicles off the lot to the Cincinnati Auto Auction for storage, according to the owner of Edge Towing, the company hired to transport the inventory.