KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The wires have been cut. The seats are missing and much of the molding is stashed on the floorboard.
“It's horrible,” said Jason Jones as he looked over the van he had given to a North Kansas City business to retrofit three months ago. “It's absolutely horrible. This is my seven-year-old daughter's way to get around in the world, and he took it away.”
Jones flew out from Oregon to pick up the $70,000 van which Chalmers Automotive, who specializes in customizing vans, was supposed to have remodeled to meet the needs of Jones’ seven-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
“It hurts her to sit up, so we had them build us a couch in the back,” said Jones, who lives in Bend, Ore., with his wife and daughter Carly.
Jones said he paid Chalmers Automotive about $60,000 to make the van not only more comfortable for Carly, but wheelchair accessible. That was in July.
That same month Chalmers Automotive filed bankruptcy and the Jones became just another customer the company owes a total of more than $2 million to.
As Fox 4 Problem Solvers first reported, multiple lawsuits accuse Chalmers of fraud and running a Ponzi Scheme – spending one customer’s money to finish someone else’s van.
Although Jones never expected to see his money again, he wanted his van back. When no one from Chalmers would return his phone calls, Fox 4 Problem Solvers connected Jones to a Kansas City attorney who helped him get his van back.
Jones was thrilled to have the van, but shocked by the condition. It had been gutted in preparation for being remodeled and now many key components were missing, like the seats.
“They tore it all apart,” Jones said shaking his head. “It hasn't changed for a month. I have pictures of it a month ago and it looks like this.”
While in Kansas City, Jones had hoped to talk to Jack Chalmers, the owner of Chalmers Automotive, but he never showed.
“So yeah, he stole from a seven-year-old girl with epilepsy and cerebral palsy,” Jones said, with his voice breaking. “That's a pretty awful human.”
Chalmers told a bankruptcy judge that he was the victim of a bad business deal which forced him to shut his doors. A judge dismissed his attempt to escape his debts through bankruptcy, but it’s unlikely many of his victims will ever see a dime.
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