COLUMBUS — A 43-year-old Columbus man is accused of creating a false paper trail for a classic 1970 Chevrolet muscle car to pump up the asking price for the vehicle before selling it to an Iowa buyer this spring.
Platte County Court Judge Frank Skorupa bound Mickey Dush over for trial in district court on charges of theft by deception and a sales tax violation following a preliminary hearing this week.
Theft by deception is a Class III felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The sales tax violation is a Class IV felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Testimony during a hearing in county court detailed a probe by the Nebraska State Patrol’s Auto Fraud Unit accusing Dush of buying a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle from a Florida classic car dealer in 2011 and then misrepresenting the muscle car’s origins during a subsequent March sale in Columbus.
The 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 396 was a mass produced model that rolled off General Motors assembly lines. The 1970 Chevelle LS-6 454 model was a limited edition, far rarer and far more highly prized by classic car enthusiasts and investors.
The Platte County Attorney’s Office contended during the hearing that Dush bought a Chevelle SS 396 from the Florida dealer in May 2011, then swapped out the 396 motor for a 454 engine.
The prosecution also asserted through questioning a State Patrol investigator that Dush bought a fraudulent “original build sheet” on eBay to use as documentation that the muscle car was an authentic, original equipment Chevelle 454.
Dush is accused of misleading the buyer about the authenticity of the classic car to inflate the value for resale, Chief Deputy Platte County Attorney Demi Herman said following the hearing.
Dush is a local classic car enthusiast who buys classic cars all over the nation, restores them to prime condition and resells them. The defendant is scheduled for arraignment in district court on Aug. 10.
Herman said Dush bought the Chevelle for $37,500 in May 2011 in Florida and sold it in March in Columbus to a Creston, Iowa, man for $87,000.
A mint condition 1970 Chevelle 454 was recently listed with Barrett-Jackson Auction Co., a nationally known Phoenix classic car auction house, for sale at a price of $125,000.
Defense attorney William Kurtenbach wasn’t ready to assess the strength of the state’s case against Dush after the hearing, preferring instead to wait until the prosecution shares its evidence with the defense during discovery in district court.
“We learned (at the preliminary hearing) that the state is stepping in to enforce a civil suit through the form of a criminal prosecution,” said Kurtenbach, adding that the buyer of the Chevelle had failed to perform his “due diligence” prior to finalizing the sale.
The State Patrol investigator maintained at the hearing that following the sale of the Chevelle, the buyer’s wife did an Internet search of the vehicle identification number and learned that the original car was the mass produced model, not the Chevelle 454.
The Iowa couple contacted law enforcement authorities in April.
In 1970, Chevrolet introduced the powerhouse 454 to its mid-sized line-up. Chevelle buffs were greeted by the LS-6 with the powerful 454 V8. The 454 had a factory rating of 450 horsepower.
Few other muscle cars could rival the power of the model.
A factory build sheet specifies exactly what equipment went into building a specific vehicle. This document is generated at the assembly plant and tells the people in the plant everything necessary to build the vehicle from parts inventory and sub-assemblies on hand.
Multiple build sheets were generated for each car. Copies could wind up above the gas tank, under a seat, above the headliner, under the dash or squeezed behind a door panel.
The 1970 Chevelle LS 454 is one of the most collectable muscle cars of all time.
According to LS6registry.com, only 4,475 were built.