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 return the cars or 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 was issued last week, telling 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
The Associated Press left phone and email messages for a woman whose name also is listed on the bank accounts that Cooper says McElreath set up to receive money. 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 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.
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc