Ex-car dealer faces accusations

A Cornelius man faces felony charges that he failed to provide titles to customers at his Lake Norman luxury automobile dealership.

John Rosenbaum, 39, who owned Auto Sports by the Lake Inc. in Denver, N.C., until it closed recently, is scheduled to appear in Lincoln County District Court on Sept. 2 on six counts each of obtaining property by false pretense and corporate malfeasance.

Rosenbaum is free on a $5,000 unsecured bond since his arrest last week.

J.L. Moody, an enforcement officer with the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, reported on arrest warrants that Rosenbaum willingly failed to obtain clear title to vehicles by not paying off previous debts owed on those vehicles. Rosenbaum then resold the vehicles for as much as $45,000, but never gave the new owners the car's title, the state said.

Moody also was the arresting officer in a previous case involving Rosenbaum, in which Rosenbaum pleaded guilty Jan. 31, 2007, to two counts of failure to deliver a title. He served a year probation and paid $160 in fines and court costs.

Rosenbaum told the Observer this week that he's “cooperated fully” with the DMV and has delivered customers their tags and registrations. He blamed the economy for the failure of his business.

“Because of the weak economy and higher gas prices, anybody that has owned any car in the last eight months has lost a lot of value in the car they own,” Rosenbaum said in an e-mail to the Observer. “…The high-end luxury and high-performance type dropped in value over $1,000 per week.

“In a month's time, I lost $4,000 per vehicle; $4,000 times 200 units equals $800,000. Car dealers all over the country are suffering right now for that very same reason.”

Rosenbaum, who said this week he is now working at a Cadillac dealership in Lexington, said he kept all collected tax and tag monies in an escrow account and has paid every customer's fees to the DMV.

“Unfortunately, when a car dealer's business fails, he is charged with a crime,” he said.

He acknowledged his actions meant that employees who worked at the dealership for many years were out of work. “I just couldn't keep up with the falling prices,” he said.