The FBI is investigating whether a local consignment used-car dealer underpaid vehicle owners and pocketed the difference.
According to a search warrant obtained from U.S. Magistrate Philip Pallenberg on Nov. 28, the FBI alleges that Curtis McQueen, owner of McQueen Motors, committed mail fraud.
McQueen said today he is fully cooperating with the investigation and will be vindicated.
McQueen, allegedly "used the U.S. Mail to engage in a scheme to intentionally defraud" consumers by misstating the price a vehicle was sold for and ultimately reducing the seller's profit, the search warrant said.
The FBI on Monday seized records from McQueen Motors on Glacier Highway.
The FBI alleges there are at least 15 known sellers who have been defrauded by McQueen Motors, and said there may be many more in Southeast.
Special Agent Eric Gonzalez of the FBI declined to comment because the investigation is pending.
McQueen said he is shocked by the allegations. He declined to comment about the contents of the FBI's warrant.
"I'm astonished and in shock and caught off guard by this," McQueen said. "I put my name on my business because I'm proud of it. ... I know in the end we will be vindicated.
"I'm not the kind of guy to say 'no comment' because that implies I have something to hide, which I don't. I have nothing to hide," he said.
According to the McQueen Motors Web site, since opening in winter of 1998 it has handled consignment sales of used vehicles on behalf of Southeast residents. The company sells cars, trucks and SUVs, as well as heavy equipment, small boats and skiffs.
During its investigation, the FBI said in the search warrant, a seller would bring in a vehicle for McQueen to sell. In the warrant the FBI cited an example of a man identified as G.L. In the spring of 2000, McQueen and G.L. agreed to sell his 1997 Grand Caravan on consignment for $23,000. If the vehicle sold, G.L. would pay a $900 flat fee to McQueen for selling the vehicle, transferring the title and taking care of any liens on the vehicle. In return, G.L. would get $22,100 from the sale of the vehicle.
However, in this case and several others, according to the warrant, an employee of the car lot phoned G.L. a few months later telling him there was an offer for the vehicle, but it was for less than the agreed-upon selling price. G.L. received about $20,000 from McQueen Motors, the warrant said.
The FBI reviewed records from the state Division of Motor Vehicles, which said the selling price of G.L.'s vehicle was $23,428, which included tax and other fees, the warrant said.
"The difference between the amount disbursed to G.L. and the actual sales price was approximately $2,900," the warrant said. "Even after subtracting the $900 fee, Curtis McQueen failed to account to G.L. for approximately $2,000."
The FBI cited four other examples of similar incidents of potential fraud in its warrant. The FBI said it believed there was "probable cause that documents reflecting the fraud exist and will be found at McQueen Motors."
"My books are totally open to them. I am putting up no road blocks," McQueen said today. "Someone has made a complaint for whatever reason and forced this agency to investigate us and we are cooperating fully.
"Every time there is an investigation at a business it's easy for people to think something negative," McQueen said. "But there are investigations that turn out positive, as it will in this case."
No charges are pending against McQueen in the Juneau court system and no complaints have been lodged against him or his company with the Better Business Bureau, according to a search of court records and the BBB's Web site.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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