The owner of Casino Cars Inc. in Twin Falls is charged with grand theft for allegedly swiping more than a half-million dollars from a Florida businessman in a car sale.
Eric Lee, 45, is the registered agent of Casino Cars Inc., at 601 Main Ave. The business is in a building shared by Latham Motors, according to its signage.
Latham Motors closed a year ago, before its owners, Robert Latham and Robert Latham Jr., were sued by KeyBank for $6.4 million.
The charge against Lee, according to his lawyer, Anthony Valdez, is "totally separate" from the Latham lawsuit.
Lee is accused of taking $510,000 in wire transfers for a 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR Roadster. According to court records, the pricey car was never delivered to Tom Gonzales of TG Investments in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association online guide for car sales, the manufacturer's suggested retail price was $497,750 for the 2008 SLR Roadster.
"Multiple demands were made by TG Investments, to either deliver the vehicle or return the money," according to a police affidavit. "Since neither had happened, TG Investments chose to file a crime report with the Twin Falls Police Department."
Police found a series of e-mails "explaining various difficulties in delivery of the vehicle," court records show.
Lee admitted to police in a July interview, according to court records, that he got the money and didn't deliver the car. "He (Lee) had fallen onto financial hard times."
Lee allegedly told police that he wanted to make good on Gonzales' $510,000 loss, according to court records.
But on Sept. 21, Valdez faxed police a letter saying "that Mr. Lee was not able to fulfill his obligation," records show. "The letter also states that Mr. Lee admitted his misappropriation of funds."
The doors to Casino Cars were locked and most of the blinds were drawn on Columbus Day. The building's mailbox is marked with the words "Mr. Viper," and is surrounded by an empty car lot with aging light poles.
Lee has a preliminary hearing set for Friday in Twin Falls. The Latham lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing later this month.
Florida-based TG Investments is involved in real estate development, according to its Web site.
Andrea Jackson may be reached at email@example.com or 208-735-3380.