Car dealer charged
- Lake Oswego Review - News
Oswego Luxury's Charles Seaman arrested by LOPD
By LEE VAN DER VOO
The co-owner of a luxury car dealership has been arrested and more than 20 people are telling police they lost out on either the cash or the title to the cars they bought and sold through his business.
Charles J. Seaman, 30, co-owner of Oswego Luxury at 600 N. State Street, was arrested July 2 on seven counts of unlawful consignment practices.
The arrest followed at least seven complaints to police from people who bought or sold cars through the dealership and allegedly went unpaid or never received the titles for the cars they bought.
Oswego Luxury opened in November 2006 in the same location where Lake Oswego Auto Sales ran a long-time, reputable dealership.
Seaman partnered with Tom Capps for the business, which specialized in selling high-end cars. When it opened its doors in the State Street location, Oswego Luxury rolled out a selection of cars and trucks that included Lexuses, Acuras, Cadillacs, Mercedes Benzes and BMWs. Among its early sales was a $170,000 Maserati.
Within a year the business became one of seven dealerships in the United States that were selling Smart Cars, the colorful eco-friendly option from Mercedes Benz. Oswego Luxury beat out other, more established Oregon dealerships in competition for the Smart Car as Mercedes put a toe in the American market.
As business - and publicity - boomed, Oswego Luxury steadily grew its reputation for selling high-end brands, selling many of its vehicles on consignment. The owners of those cars turned over their keys to Oswego Luxury but held onto the titles of their vehicles, which they relinquished only after being paid.
But now, many people say they were never paid by Oswego Luxury and are allegedly still waiting for what police say appears to be between $300,000 and $400,000 in missing payments.
After Seaman's arrest, another 13 people stepped forward alleging they either do not have the titles to the cars they bought there or money for cars they sold.
Complaints involve BMWs, Mercedes, Acuras, Smart Cars, Porsches and Landrovers, some sold on the Internet and others out of the dealership's storefront on State Street.
Four of those alleged victims declined to speak to the Lake Oswego Review for this story, saying they want to keep the peace with Seaman, all hopeful they would still be paid.
But police logs obtained by the newspaper show at least one alleged victim has been waiting for payment from the dealership since dropping off a car in November. In one case, another missing car had been shipped overseas while its owner allegedly still waited for money.
Another case involving a 2007 Lexus kicked off a civil dispute between the car's original owner and the person who bought it, each claiming rightful ownership of the vehicle.
One alleged victim tried to reclaim a 1989 Porsche convertible two months after leaving it at Oswego Luxury for sale, only to find the car had been sold, according to police reports. Those same documents allege the victim was never contacted after the sale and that a representative of Oswego Luxury claimed to be 'short of money' and unable to pay.
Subsequent complaints to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles instigated a state investigation that caused Seaman to lose his certificate as an auto dealer when it expired June 30.
Police say they are cooperating with state investigators, who were fielding 12 of their own complaints in mid-June, documents show.
Meanwhile, Oswego Luxury remains closed and unable to reopen without a licensed auto dealer since Seaman's license lapsed June 30. Seaman was arrested two days later at his Beaverton home and taken to the Clackamas County Jail. He has since been released.
Numerous cars remain on the lot at the dealership and police believe cars parked along neighboring side streets may also be associated with Oswego Luxury.
Capt. Don Forman of the Lake Oswego Police said anyone with a car at the business should attempt to retrieve it.
'As I understand it, (the dealership) is defunct, there is no business operating there and if anyone has a car up there they should be very concerned,' he said.
Police continue to investigate whether other people may be involved with alleged problems at the dealership. Former Oswego Luxury co-owner Tom Capps was not involved in last week's police action.