Bay City Motor Co. owner pleads for felony sale of classic 1963 Jaguar
BAY CITY, MI – The former owner of a downtown Bay City vintage car dealership charged with a felony after allegedly selling a car on consignment and then pocketing the proceeds has agreed to a plea deal.
On Friday, September 10, David F. Cotten, 69, appeared before Bay County Circuit Judge Harry P. Gill and did not dispute the only charge he faced: conversion theft greater than $ 20,000. The charge is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 15,000 or three times the value of what was stolen.
Cotton owned the now permanently closed Bay City Motor Company / Bay City Auto Company at 1124 N. Water St., a Class D dealership licensed to negotiate vehicle sales between the parties.
As part of the plea deal, Cotten is to be given five years probation and no jail time on his original sentence, although the court reserves the option of having Cotten serve some time in the local jail. Cotten is also required to surrender all licenses to effect vehicle sales or transfers.
The plea deal also requires Cotten to pay restitution in the amount of $ 175,000.
By pleading without question as opposed to guilty, Cotton did not orally admit to having committed a crime. Gill relied on other documents to put a conviction on the record.
The conviction stems from an investigation by the Michigan State Department’s Regulatory Oversight Division and Michigan State Police.
In 2016, a customer approached Cotten about the consignment sale of a red 1963 Jaguar XKE OTS convertible, officials said. Both parties agreed to list the car at around $ 220,000, although a truer estimate for the Jaguar would have been around $ 126,000, officials said.
Officials allege Cotten later claimed the customer wanted to trade in the Jaguar for a 1958 Cadillac Eldorado valued at $ 130,000 with the understanding that the balance of about $ 90,000 would be passed on to the customer once the Jaguar sold. However, dealer records show the Eldorado was purchased directly by the customer, officials said.
Authorities allege that Cotten then ceded Jaguar title to Bay City Auto Company, transferring ownership of the Jaguar to the dealership and negotiating the sale of the car for around $ 118,300 with an auto auction company in California. The vehicle was sold to a buyer in Germany and officials say Cotten never turned over the proceeds of the sale to the original Jaguar owner, who for the next two years was led to believe that the car was still on the market.
An officer in the Regulatory Oversight Division has been contacted by a lawyer representing the original owner of the Jaguar. In December 2019, authorities issued a warrant against Cotten and he was brought to justice later that month.
Cotten is represented by Bay City attorney Matthew B. Hewitt, who declined to comment on his client’s plea.
In addition to his criminal case, Cotten’s management of the Jaguar led to him being the target of a civil lawsuit in 2019. The lawsuit was filed by Douglas and Sharyn Chapman, a couple from Florida who claimed to be the owner. of the Jaguar, having bought it from Cotten in December 2014 for $ 178,644.70.
In September 2016, the parties agreed that Cotten and his company would resell the Jaguar, according to court records.
Cotten and the Chapmans have exchanged numerous statements and emails. In them, Cotten claimed to have sold the Jaguar and refused to hand over the proceeds, the Chapmans alleged in the lawsuit.
“Despite numerous claims that Bay City Motor sold the Jaguar and repeatedly promised to pay the plaintiffs, Bay City Motor continues to market the Jaguar on the company’s website as part of its inventory,” said the pursuit.
In January 2018, Cotten agreed to return the Jaguar to the Chapmans or pay them $ 220,000, according to the lawsuit. The owners of the car claim that no action has taken place, which has prompted them to file a civil action.
In July 2019, Bay County Circuit Judge Joseph K. Sheeran issued an order granting final judgment in favor of the Chapmans. Sheeran ruled that the defendants owed the Chapmans $ 257,360, which includes the principal of $ 225,500 plus accrued interest.
The judge also ruled that Cotten and his company obtained the Jaguar or the money under false pretenses, misrepresentation or actual fraud.
Judge Gill is due to sentence Cotten at 1:30 p.m. on October 18.
Bay City Motor Co. owner faces felony charge in selling classic 1963 Jaguar
Bay City vintage car dealership facing criminal charge ordered to pay $ 257,000 in civil lawsuit