A settlement has been reached in a New York case involving a man who bought a vintage C2 Corvette and wound up with $125,000 in the car, only to discover years later that the car’s VIN had been changed.
Robert C. Ernst of North Tonawanda, New York, bought the car in 2008 for about $50,000 from Ronald A. Ellis of Newfane, New York and then proceeded to put another $75,000 in an extensive restoration.
When Ernst took it to a car show in Ontario in 2011, he was shocked when the judges disqualified his entry because the VIN tag was not original. A subsequent investigation by Niagara County, New York authorities found that the car had actually been on the lam virtually its entire life, having been stolen not long after it was sold by a Georgia Chevrolet dealer in 1966. North Tonawanda City Judge William R. Lewis issued a ruling last week that will drop the nine felony charges originally filed against Ellis if he stays clean for six months.
Ernst and Ellis also reached a civil settlement, the details of which remain confidential, though Ernst did tell The Buffalo News that he “basically” feels he was “made whole on the car.”
For his part, Ellis, who had no prior criminal record, appears to have been the victim of a scam that took place long before he ever bought the car. An investigation of the car’s history revealed that the baby blue 1966 Corvette convertible with a white top had had seven previous owners in Niagara County, New York, alone.
Ernst says the replacement VIN tag has diminished the car’s value significantly, but he believes that he could probably easily sell it for $75,000 to someone not as concerned with originality.