For sale: Ponzi scheme defendant's car collection

AP News
Posted: Dec 30, 2009 3:53 PM

The government auction of a Utah fraud suspect's car collection will include some fakes.

U.S. marshals will auction nearly 200 vehicles seized from Jeffrey Mowen, who is charged with running a Ponzi scheme. Mowen pleaded not guilty after his April arrest in Panama, but a federal judge ruled that authorities could hold an auction because they are paying $20,000 a month just to store his cars, motorcycles, RVs, dune buggies and golf carts.

Two auctions are set for January.

Trade publications say a lot of Mowen's so-called classics actually are fiberglass kit cars with little value. One supposed Lamborghini is mounted on a Pontiac Fiero chassis. A 1939 Jaguar replica was built from a 1984 Cadillac frame, according to the judge's auction order.

Among the genuine cars are a 1981 DeLorean sports coupe, a 1989 Bentley Turbo, a 1969 Dodge Charger and a 1973 Plymouth Barracuda.

Other replicas are Porsche and Ford roadsters. Among dozens of motorcycles is a Peter Fonda Easy Rider clone.

Many of the cars have never been driven and some motorcycle tanks never filled with gasoline.

Most vehicles are so clean "you could eat dinner off the engine," auctioneer Rob Olsen told The Associated Press. "I've never seen cars this nice."

Olsen said federal agents "had to snatch-and-grab and pick them up from all places" around Utah.

Marshals started moving them Wednesday from an undisclosed storage facility to a North Salt Lake warehouse for the auctions.

The government hopes to raise about $2 million from auctions in January, and the money will go to Mowen's investors, who are owed more than $8 million, prosecutors said.

"We will set minimum prices or reserves on the vehicles because we've got to maximize the return for investors," Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Juergens said Wednesday. "Still, I think people are going to get some real good deals."

It wasn't known if Mowen, 47, who is being held in jail, objects to the sale of his property when he hasn't been found guilty.

"I don't know if he had a choice," Juergens said.

Mowen couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. His lawyers didn't immediately return messages from The Associated Press. A court docket shows no effort by the defense to stop the auctions.

The auctions will be held by Erkelens & Olsen Auctioneers Jan. 7 and Jan. 21. Juergens said a third auction may be held in January for the sale of miscellaneous trailers, car haulers and boats.

Buyers will be able to take immediate possession of the vehicles that are sold, the marshal said.

More than a dozen of Mowen's 210 vehicles have been pulled off the auction block after other people asserted in court papers that they had an ownership interest in the vehicles. The auction house says Mowen hadn't fully paid for some of the vehicles.

Mowen, 47, formerly of Lindon, Utah, was indicted in February on three counts of wire fraud.

More recently, he was charged with trying to persuade a fellow Davis County jail inmate to kill four witnesses in the case to keep them from testifying at trial.

Mowen pleaded not guilty on Dec. 14 to the additional charges.