Businessman skips town; faces more fraud charges in Arizona

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

It's hard to break a bad habit. Just ask Carroll Carson Sanders.
   Sanders is wanted in two different states on charges of fraudulently scheming customers out of money. The amount just keeps adding up against him. Sanders once owned East Tennessee Motorsports at two different locations -- 1510 Stateline Rd. and 238 East Elk Ave -- but he's skipped town now.
   Sanders was arrested on two counts of theft over $10,000 on Jan. 9 and posted a $10,000 corporate bond the following day. Authorities are searching for him on an additional charge of theft over $10,000 and one count of theft over $1,000.
   Authorities with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Carter County Sheriff's Department, and the Elizabethton Police Department have been looking for Sanders, whom they believe left his home, 525 Golf Course Drive, and his business after posting bail.
   "Beginning Nov. 15, 2003 over a course of time we developed information indicating several local customers, and one from Hickory, N.C., paid money up front for dully pickup trucks, Ford motors, other GM motor parts, and GM racing engines. The products were bought sight unseen based on description and there was no delivery. The products were not produced and the money was never refunded," THP Special Agent Dan Bowman said Thursday.
   Sanders first court date is scheduled for Feb. 6 in General Sessions Court.
   "We have had other victims come out since the arrest was made. Warrants are now open for public view," Bowman said.
   Before moving to Tennessee in May 2003, Sanders and his son operated a motorsports business in Arizona, near Tucson. According to Arizona Assistant Attorney General Paul Eckerstrom, Sanders was arrested on May 2, 2003 by the Oro Valley Police Department and charged with three counts of fraudulent schemes and artifice, which are Class Two felonies in Arizona.
   The monetary total he allegedly swindled from customers in Arizona has surpassed $1.6 million, according to the OVPD. Detective A. J. "Buddy" Novak of the OVPD said since learning of the charges and warrants in Carter County, Sanders will not be eligible for a plea bargain like he previously planned.
   Sanders was scheduled to plead guilty in Arizona court on Feb. 6 and accept a $100,000 fine. Sanders had tried to extend the plea date in order to make enough money to pay the fine. "He had to 'sell' a few more cars to make the money," Novak said. Arizona investigators believe Sanders was going to use the money he was fraudulently making from East Tennessee Motorsports to pay the $100,000.
   Eckerstrom learned of the warrants in Tennessee Thursday morning and plans to file a motion to revoke release conditions previously set and forfeit a bond agreement.
   Instead of charging Sanders with only three counts of fraud, Eckerstrom plans on prosecuting Sanders for each reported case. Approximately 30 victims have filed reports against Sanders with Eckerstrom.
   The punishment for a Class Two felony is a minimum 10 1/2-year prison sentence and a maximum sentence of 35 years. If the judge decides to stack the original counts, Sanders can "conceivably do more than 100 years," according to Eckerstrom. If he prosecutes Sanders with the 30 victims, Sanders "could face a lot of time," he said.
   Sanders was scheduled to appear in Civil Court on Jan. 14 at 9 a.m. Bowman went to Sander's business and his home on that date and found both places abandoned by Sanders and his family.
   Vehicles with a Tennessee license plate authorities believe Sanders could be driving include:
   -- a 1992 Chevrolet Suburban tag# PQE646
   -- a 1979 Chevrolet pickup truck tag# PQE597
   -- a 1995 Cadillac Seville tag# PQE596
   -- a 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix tag# NUU710, or
   -- a Chevrolet Corvette tag# PDQ552.
   The total amount of cash Sanders allegedly took from customers in Tennessee has not been determined because more victims are coming forward every day. Bowman said any person with a complaint against Sanders should report it immediately.
   He said complaints against the 1510 Stateline Rd. location should be reported to the Carter County Sheriff's Department, and those against the 238 East Elk Ave. business should be reported to the Elizabethton Police Department.
   The most recent police reports were filed on Jan. 14. Penny Woodson alleges he paid Sanders $9,700 for a used dump truck that was supposedly located in Arizona. Woodson has not received the truck since ordering it on Dec. 2, 2003.
   Another report, filed by Nicholas Floyd Street on Jan. 14, claims Street paid Sanders "$375 for a manifold for a 1995 GMC Sonoma. He advised that the part would be shipped on the 6th of January. When Mr. Street checked back on the date, the business was closed and they would not take any calls," the report reads.
   Another complaint was filed at the Carter County Sheriff's Department on Jan. 10 by Joseph Daniel Holsclaw who reports giving Sanders a wire transfer of $8,410 to purchase of a 2003 Dodge 4x4 truck. Holsclaw received the money from Terris A. Cranford, of Hickory, N.C.
   "Mr. Sanders never delivered the vehicle and told Mr. Holsclaw that he had to go to Georgia to pick it up and he had problems getting someone to go pick it up. Mr. Sanders kept giving Mr. Holsclaw different reasons he could not deliver the vehicle and the last contact Holsclaw had with Mr. Sanders was Jan. 5. Mr. Sanders never came up with the vehicle and kept the money given him," the police report reads.
   A complaint filed by Wendell Buchanan on Jan. 13 at the Elizabethton Police Department reports that Buchanan's vehicle is located inside the Roan Street location. All attempts by EPD Patrol Officer Mike Commons to contact Sanders were negative. Buchanan's vehicle, a red and yellow Monte Carlo race car, was supposed to be sponsored by Sanders.
   In a previous story printed in the Star, Sanders said, "I owned my own shop for the last 20 years. All I have done since I was 15 years old is work on cars."
   Sanders opened his first location on July 7, 2003 at 1510 Stateline Road. During his grand opening of the shop he commented that he planned to open up two shops in Johnson City and another shop in Elizabethton, which is now in the Old Paty Building, leased to Sanders by Builders First Choice.