Classic car consignment company owned by Mattson shuts down

In early May, representatives of the California Department of Motor Vehicles visited Specialty Sales Classics, a consignment auto lot in Fairfield that specialized in restored classic cars. They issued the equivalent of a cease-and-desist order, telling managers the business’ bond, established to pay customers who complained, had been exhausted and that they were to stop consigning and selling cars immediately.

Soon, the company had a “Closing indefinitely!” announcement at the top of its website.

“Specialty Sales Classics would like to apologize to our customers, community and friends,” the announcement read. “It has been a great run since 1978! … We as a company would like to apologize to everyone involved and look forward to what the future holds.”

But that future could be bleak.

Specialty Sales Classics, which also had lots in Pleasanton and Benicia that were shut down, was owned by Ken Mattson, whose name first appeared on the company’s incorporation documents in 2011.

The company now takes its place alongside other Mattson-controlled real estate holdings, investment funds and business ventures that are being shut down.

In May, Mattson, who could not be reached for comment, was accused of investment fraud by his lifelong friend and longtime business partner, Tim LeFever. That accusation ultimately led the FBI to search Mattson’s primary residence outside Sonoma on May 24. Last week, Mattson sued LeFever in Sacramento Superior Court, while LeFever sued Mattson in Sonoma County Superior Court, civil actions that could be the front end of a wave of legal problems for Mattson.

Previous “statements of information” — a form of documentation required by the California Secretary of State’s Office — that were filed for Specialty Sales Classics listed Tim LeFever as the business agent, as did the company’s articles of incorporation in 2011. Mattson filed a new statement May 17, with LeFever’s name removed.

The problems at Specialty Sales Classics look modest next to the allegations of sweeping securities fraud, but they are a source of anxiety and anger for people who say they’re owed money for cars they no longer own.

And unlike some Mattson deals, irregularities at the consignment lots appear to predate the Mattson-LeFever breakup and the Department of Justice investigation. Online reviews and consumer complaints filed to the DMV and Better Business Bureau point to late or defaulted payments that go back years.

Recent events have put Specialty Sales Classics employees in a tough place.

“What you have to understand is Ken Mattson is the only person who has access to the funds for the cars,” said an employee who worked at the Fairfield site until it was shuttered, and who insisted on anonymity because they fear “blowback” from Mattson.

“Managers and employees are caught in the middle, consigning cars then selling them for commissions, but Ken is not paying customers for their car,” the employee said.

Mattson was very hands-off at the lots, they said — until money changed hands, at which point it would be transferred to KS Mattson Partners, Mattson’s company. Payments to consignors were frequently late. The lots also sold cars from Mattson’s personal collection, the former employee said.

“Fast forward to the last six to eight months, and very, very little has been paid,” they said. “More than $500,000 is owed to people for cars that they have brought in to sell. We get trusts and people that are needing money, so they sell and are not paid.”

A review of the public record supports that portrayal. The DMV has received 22 complaints related to Specialty Sales Classics. A representative offered no additional information, saying the department does not comment on open investigations.

The Better Business Bureau shows nine complaints in its database, filed between September 2021 and March 2024.

Eight of the nine complaints mention the 20-day payment guarantee. All of them report failure to meet that obligation within 30-60 days of sale. All of them cite examples of the owner failing to return phone calls. The outstanding debts range as high as $95,000 for a Corvette sold in 2021; there is no indication whether any of the complaints were resolved.

“Based on prior complaints to BBB and online reviews, this company has a history of not paying as contracted,” reads one of the complaints. “It appears, owner ********* comingles funds belonging to consignor for his own personal gain.”

The Press Democrat interviewed two men who ultimately received what they were owed, but only after prolonged, frustrating efforts.

link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *