Hi - does anyone know if Stephen Lawing from specialty auto-sports is still in operation? I paid a deposit for a 356A 3 years ago and haven’t heard from him nor can get hold of him for any update.

I’ve just found a spate of recent complaints about him and hoping someone on this site may be able to assist 

thx

Original Post

It amazes me that this guy can continue to stay in business and steal money from unsuspecting people. My local jail is filled past capacity with people that are there for drug possession ,not dealing but just possession and almost if not all of them are sick and have the disease of addiction and need help not incarceration but a real bad actor, an out right con artist thief of the worse type skates by taking $10K a clip from law abiding citizens. It is crazy.

GC,

The most knowledgeable person for SAS on this site is @Jim Kelly who has an SAS Coupe.  You can find some of his threads with the search function on this site.

Last Spring there were a few people posting on here about their efforts to get their money back and someone in the Knoxville area, who is a lawyer, posted, trying to help them out.  That thread should be on here, too.  Just do an "Advance Search" (spyglass at the top of the page) on SAS over the past year or two.

Good luck.  Gordon

You can search on mylife.com and get address and phone numbers I assume they are current .   Also check this old thread ,  https://www.kitcars.com/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=774 .....seems the Horse and Pony Show has been going on since 2003 and earlier.    I also searched for the TV station that did an investigation on SL a long time ago and can't seem to find that little gem.

All

Many thanks for the feedback. Gratefully received and obviously hugely disappointing that this guy has turned out to be a fraud.

I thought I had done the due diligence and even leaned on a friend who had actually received one and was very satisfied with it, so am gutted but at least now I know the status. Thanks you for all he advise.

Can’t believe he is still getting away with it after all these years. 

Cheers GC

I'd like to ask this same question of GC again...

Does anybody know if Steve Lawing as Specialty Auto Sports is still in business?  I've seen all the reply's and BBB web info of all his troubles. 

I recently saw an Arial Photo from June 2019 that shows his Mill Branch address empty.  The lot around his shop is cleaned up, no more wrecked Subaru's in the yard.

I suspect he's closed down, anybody know for sure?

GC posted:

Hi - does anyone know if Stephen Lawing from specialty auto-sports is still in operation? I paid a deposit for a 356A 3 years ago and haven’t heard from him nor can get hold of him for any update.

I’ve just found a spate of recent complaints about him and hoping someone on this site may be able to assist 

thx

Hi, i am not sure but suspect not. After I messaged his website address and got no reply, and just after I reached out to this group, I received a couriered hard copy letter from Steve with the 1660 Beason ridge road address. It stated the following;

Seems I have failed to notify you of some changes we have had to go through because of a malware attack on our website in late 2017. It was so malevolent it destroyed our computer and i had to have a new one built.

The new computer has all the updated features and Windows 10 software which unfortunately does not support the various software packages I have been using for the last 20+ years. So I am unable to use my old email Outlook software, my website development and management software, and several other important software's I use regularly. So I have been working with a local Computer Nerd group to find software that will work with both my new computer and old files. No luck so far.

My email address on the website is non functioning and I am unable to open the website to change the email, update the photos and prices etc. until we find software that will work with my files and new computer. However the mailing address is the same as is the phone number so I can be reached.

Aside from that problem the design and development of our cars continues and all cars in the build queue are benefiting from these improvements. These include fine tuning the new rear and front suspension which were offered about the time you placed an order. The convertible top and rollup windows has also been improved dramatically. These are all appearing on the cars with no change in price.

Sorry we lost contact during the computer recovery efforts and I suggest you use regular mail until my Computer guys can get me back up and running on the website.

The correct address and phone number is shown on the letterhead of this letter (1660 beacon Ridge Road, New Tazewell, Tennessee (865-925-2500))

Look forward to hearing from you. Your car is moving forward and the alterations you needed for RHD had to wait to be incorporated into the other improvements we have made.

Hand signed by Steve

Seems to convenient that after 3 years of no comms, a few weeks after my emails and calls I receive the above letter. Given the feedback from the group, I suspect the business has already folded. Of course I hope not, but Im not holding out much hope at this stage

GC

All of that BS about his computer is con man talk and doesn't make a lick of sense. He could have his website fixed, have a new site built and linked over and buy a new computer. If something doesn't make sense it usually isn't true. Ask him to let someone stop by to verify the progress on your car or proof he is actually building any cars. I bet he doesn't reply or comes up with some type of idiotic reason why that cant happen. I cant figure out why he isn't been prosecuted by the authorities. All of this deposit money he has collected probably hasn't been reported to the IRS as income. Maybe the IRS is the agency to take him down. I think it was the IRS that took Al Copone down. I think the IRS pays a reward that is 10% of any judgment to the one who tips them off about someone not reporting all of their illegal income. If I had gotten ripped off I might be calling the IRS about this guy.

Jimmy V. posted:

All of that BS about his computer is con man talk and doesn't make a lick of sense. He could have his website fixed, have a new site built and linked over and buy a new computer. If something doesn't make sense it usually isn't true. Ask him to let someone stop by to verify the progress on your car or proof he is actually building any cars. I bet he doesn't reply or comes up with some type of idiotic reason why that cant happen. I cant figure out why he isn't been prosecuted by the authorities. All of this deposit money he has collected probably hasn't been reported to the IRS as income. Maybe the IRS is the agency to take him down. I think it was the IRS that took Al Copone down. I think the IRS pays a reward that is 10% of any judgment to the one who tips them off about someone not reporting all of their illegal income. If I had gotten ripped off I might be calling the IRS about this guy.

^ This right there.

Three years to fix a computer problem?!!!  Jimmy's right. He could have thrown his computer out, bought a new one, and had the website up and running in a day. Heck, just go back to his most recent backup and restore that and he'd have been fine.

I dodged a bullet 7 years ago as I was considering having Lawing build me a car. Instead, I took some sage advice from several on this site and bought a well sorted VS. The thought was that I would be smart to try the hobby out for awhile before jumping in and dumping a load of scratch. Still have the same car and having fun.

Having paid pretty close attention to Lawing's machinations and conduct reported on this forum and in other places I doubt he has in any way cleaned up his act.

The notion that he has issues with his computer system that are over two years old and have prevented him from keeping his commitments is just laughable, and begs the question, of what kept him from keeping his promises and commitments for years before that? Notice there is no apology anywhere in the text of the message for not delivering a car, just for "losing touch".  The notion that a customer use the regular postal service to communicate is just ridiculous. The product to be delivered is a finished car, accurate and timely information supports getting that done and is necessary to deliver the product.

Hey, Steve, get a cheap laptop, set up an e-mail account and let everybody know how to contact you. Then, respond in a timely fashion and with honesty.

Then go out and build the cars you have committed to.

You make it sound like all you are doing is R&D and tweaking design. That isn't job 1.

I'm pretty certain his computer woes could have been resolved pretty quickly if they ever even existed, and he wanted to get the mess cleaned up.

I am suspicious that this is just another stalling technique to buy him some more time to underperform.

I believe in redemption and a person's ability to change the trajectory of their lives, but I have a hard believing time believing that Lawing has an interest in doing that.

I'm glad I listened to the good advice I received from several on the forum, thanks.

There is a 1660 Beason Ridge in New Tazewell , but not a Beacon Ridge. Based on Google Earth, it appears to be raw land out in the country. Could be an old satellite pic, to be fair.

 

"Seems I have failed to notify you of some changes we have had to go through because of a malware attack on our website in late 2017. It was so malevolent it destroyed our computer and i had to have a new one built.

The new computer has all the updated features and Windows 10 software which unfortunately does not support the various software packages I have been using for the last 20+ years. So I am unable to use my old email Outlook software, my website development and management software, and several other important software's I use regularly. So I have been working with a local Computer Nerd group to find software that will work with both my new computer and old files. No luck so far.

My email address on the website is non functioning and I am unable to open the website to change the email, update the photos and prices etc. until we find software that will work with my files and new computer. However the mailing address is the same as is the phone number so I can be reached."

That's now how this works.  That's now how any of this works.  Your website doesn't reside on your computer unless you have your own server.  And if you did, and there was an attack on the website that destroyed the server, then your website wouldn't be up for anyone else to see.  Yet there it is.  I could go on, but there's no point.  Danny has got it right, it's the long con.

It does list that rural property as belonging to his family!  Looks like it was in his name at one time (transferred to avoid legal/financial responsibility?)  Only appraised at $39k - 44 acres and 2200 sq feet living space but says footprint is 3300.

https://rehold.com/New+Tazewel...BEASON+RIDGE+RD/1660

 If you scan to the East bit you find this house/garage with many vehicles in different states of disassembly - can't tell what they are.

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molleur posted:

possible mail fraud pending there as well.  Keep the letter and any other future correspondence.

In my 30+ years as a journalist writing about fraudsters, in my experience it has been not the FBI, not the IRS, not the State Troopers or the Attorney General—but the Postal Inspectors, who most often make the fraud collar. 

Drop a dime, man.

Drop a dime.

I may be able to add a bit of knowledge to the mix, but I had to step back from the Lawing swamp a few years back for my own mental health.

About 5 years ago, Lawing had two pieces of real proptery in Tennessee: the Mill Branch Road shop where he was "building" replicas, and a house and land on Beeson Ridge Road, where he lived.  The Mill Branch Road property went into foreclosure a few years back when Lawing quit making payments.  An online item actually stated that he made a payment with a check that didn't clear "for insufficient funds".  Go figure.  During that time, he moved the shop to his Beeson Ridge Road property where he lived.  He must have done a workout with his lender, because he moved back to the shop a few months later.

He currently has at least one active court case with an unknown judgement/settlement in place, but I don't know details.  It may be that the court judgement included a standard warning to "obey all laws, don't re-offend, etc., and Lawing is doing his usual song-and-dance to show the court that he is trying to run a legitimate business, as sad and laughable as that is.  I don't know the above is fact, but reasonable speculation on why he responded to GP in the way he did, and why he would care about the actions of his many victims.

Much of what Lawing does is designed to hide the fact that he intends to defraud his victims all along.  The most severe punishments and fines for both criminal and civil fraud are reserved for those fact patterns that show intent and repetition.  That's why he comes up with these immature scenarios of the "dog ate my homework" excuses.  None of us really know how long he has been scamming his victims, but it's been ongoing for at least 20 years.

I couldn't continue to let him rule my thoughts.  I had to cut him loose.  Sooner or later, we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.  I have wished all the bad things possible for him that you can imagine.  I have now stuffed him into a tiny box in my memory, which will bloom like a spring garden if/when I hear that the "bad things" happened.  Sad, I know, that I can't forgive, but that's the best I can do.

It's always dangerous to challenge a wordsmith on a public forum, especially one who is in the process of canonization, going from Mr. Ed to Saint Edward, but here goes:

In my experience, state courts and state investigators, including municipal detectives, solve almost all fraud cases.  The reasons are varied, and some background is necessary.

Almost all crime is a violation of a state law, be it code section, statute, regulation, etc.  The federal justice system does have a place in investigating and prosecuting criminal and civil matters, but the numbers are tiny when compared to the state court venue, since most crimes are intrastate, not interstate, and not violations of federal law.

The founders set it up this way, partly as a compromise between the urban vs. rural factions.  The 10th Amendment clearly states that all rights not specifically enumerated by the Constitution, or specifically forbidden to the states, remain the power of the states.

There is frequently a way to bootstrap a state violation into federal court, if the conduct crosses state boundaries, or has Uniform Commercial Code, i.e., federal law, implications.  Imagine the difficulty for California, as an example, to prosecute illegal conduct that occurs not only in California, but several other states as well.  Those fact patterns are where federal courts are the appropriate venue.

Many of us don't think about the cost of prosecution, whether state or federal.  We just assume that our taxes pay for the justice system.  That's partly true, since many states and the federal government fund their court systems from the general fund.  However, there are other forces at work.    

Prosecuting attorneys office all have a budget which controls operating costs.  In many jurisdictions, the decision of whether to prosecute suspected fraud as a civil or criminal matter rests with the prosecutor.  Unknown to many is that the prosecutor's office, whether District Attorney, state Attorney General, US Attorney's Office or other, usually shares in civil penalties awarded by the court.  That means that when the District Attorney's Office of County of San Francisco is deliberating on whether to charge Corporation X criminally or civilly, they factor in the benefits of a potential fine to their office budget.

Of course, there are many factors considered when contemplating civil vs. criminal prosecution.  Standard of proof is a major one: beyond a reasonable doubt for criminal vs. preponderance of evidence for civil.  Unanimous jury agreement for criminal vs. a lesser ratio of agreement for civil, 9 jurors out of 12 for most civil trials.

Consider the numbers involved: there are about 1,200 postal inspectors that are charged with investigating violations of mail and wire fraud, USC Secs. 1341 & 1343.  The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has almost 1,000 prosecuting attorneys, let alone investigators, paralegals, and other support people.    There are approximately  2300 prosecuting attorney's offices throughout our 50 states and DC.  That means there are probably 1,000 times the number of postal inspectors.  

Not surprisingly, prosecutors operate by the 80/20 law: if you can get 80% of the benefit in sentencing a defendant using 20% of the time and energy, do it.  That doesn't imply laziness.  In fact, just the opposite.  It shows an employee who wants efficiency, as there aren't enough hours in the day to investigate and prosecute every crime to its fullest.

Visit a state courthouse.  Almost every major city and county has one.  What do you see in the hallways?  Raucous activity is what you see.  Defendants and attorneys in serious conversation, with family members often nearby.  Noisy, emotional, busy, and often tormented, that's the state court environment.

Now go visit a federal courthouse.  Unless you live near one in a large city, you will likely have to research its location.  What do you hear when you enter the halls of a federal courthouse?  Silence.  At first, you will think you entered before or after working hours, and that they are closed.  Such is the rarified air of the federal judicial system. 

All prosecutors look for low-hanging fruit, as I mentioned above.  Wily defendants who are old hands at con games, and those defendants who hire expensive, competent counsel are treated differently than the typical small-time criminal, since matters of proof will be thoroughly checked by defense counsel, and the prosecutor will need to spend more time on the matter.

I have heard suggestions on this forum that the appropriate investigation of Specialty Auto-Sports should include RICO violations, wire and mail fraud, and involve various law enforcement agencies.  I believe most of the suggestions are misplaced.   Cons know the system.  They spend their life perfecting their own brand of malfeasance and cheating others out of their money.  They also know the judicial system.  Why do you think Lawing is still in business?  Because he takes precautions to appear as merely hapless or negligent, or the victim of circumstances, that's why.  His goal is to minimize the appearance of the intent element in his crimes.  What an accomplishment, and what a miserable way to go through life.

Apologies for the long digression, but I felt it was necessay.

So, Ed, if you have any proof or evidence of your postal inspector efficiency and contributions to fraud enforcement, please let me know your sources.  I know you're a thorough researcher, and I'm always trying to learn more.  However, absent source material, I'll stick to state prosecutions as a fraud deterrent.

 

If Mr. lawing was preying primarily on people in is own County I would think enough complaints to the county sheriff's office might warrant a look into his conduct. As it is he preys on customers (marks) living outside his own county of residence. The local sheriff's dept. and prosecutor have no political incentive to investigate and prosecute this bad actor. To most of us it is unthinkable to how a person can live their life in such a manner. Truth may be he slowly slid into this type of fraudulent behavior by getting so far behind while having cash flow issues that the taking of deposits carried him on while he lived in denial that he would someday catch up and make good. At some point he realized that he would never be able to dig out of the pit he dug for himself . He also found that he was having little or no consequences for his actions. So now we watch as he continues to part people from their money.  Just some of my thoughts. We can call it the "Bernie Madoff syndrome" for lack of better.

 It is a very sad thing when someone finds this forum only after the have sent a deposit to SAS to have their dream car built and then realize they have been lied to swindled and robbed.  Truly and sad situation.

Jimmy,

I agree that it's a sad situation, but disagree about the lack of incentive for a local prosecution.  Tennessee has a state Attorney General system, so the prosecution would be from a state official, not a Knoxville district attorney.  With that said, however, local officials, from sheriffs, police departments and city and county attorneys, are often the most vigorous prosecutors, since they have a vested interest in the communities where they live, and want to weed out the bad apples that bring disrepute to the area, and, by association, to its citizens.

Hey Jim I don't have anything to back up my Posties claim except for anecdote: When I investigated the High Sheriff of Hartford County, CT, for shaking-down his deputies (a long and normalized tradition, that) there was no state actor who would go after him, on account of his political connex. The Chief State's Attorney there and then, one John Bailey (son of John Bailey, brother of US Rep Barbara Kennelly, etc. & soforth), opened an "investigation" that literally dragged on for years; an obvious slow-walk/coverup. (Bailey at one point go so mad about my constant harping about this that he called me at home on a Sunday to berate me personally; good times!).

Anyway, couple years into it the Feds finally take an interest. It's still two more years before the charges come but, yup, Mail Fraud.

There was another investigation up there of a connected city computer contractor, and there have been several more recently down here 'round Baltimore. They're greatly outnumbered by many other LE orgs but, in my (admittedly limited) experience, Postal Inspectors are fraud specialists. 

It's probably a case of confirmation bias. The sorts of cases that interest me often involve politically-wired folks who other LE outfits may be conflicted with in terms of investigating them. 

But it's a good story anyway so I ain't checking it. 

Ed,

My conclusions would likely mirror yours if our positions were exchanged.  I frequently use inductive reasoning to make generalizations based on my admittedly limited experience.  

The bad news is: no sainthood for you for one year!  Of course, coming from a happily-lapsed Catholic, that may not throw much shade.

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