By Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A Buncombe County man has been banned from operating a business in North Carolina after state officials say he swindled people who wanted to restore classic cars.

A judge has approved a request from Attorney General Roy Cooper to permanently ban Robert Allen McElreath from operating in the state.

The default judgment applies to McElreath and his companies, Build-a-Bandit, Pick a Pony, Pontiac Pros, Common Man Classic Hot Rods and Discount Automatic Classic Restorations. They were in Black Mountain and Fairview.

Authorities think he has left the state to avoid arrest. He faces 26 felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses in Buncombe County.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood has ordered McElreath to pay $840,293 in consumer refunds, release all consumers from their contracts and pay more than $28 million in civil penalties.

The attorney general said his office will try to recover any funds available if McElreath is located. But Cooper said the man has no known assets at this time.

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