After Donald W. Houck Jr. bought a car from Brook Boyle Motorcars Ltd.
last year, the deal landed him in civil court, risked his credit rating and cost him thousands beyond the price of the car.
"It's like somebody coming into your driveway and stealing your car," said Houck, a 25-year-old land surveyor and Aberdeen resident.
"It was really scary."
Houck is one of 21 customers who fell victim to schemes contrived by the dealership's owner, R. Brook Boyle of Bel Air, according to a grand jury indictment filed against Boyle on Sept. 18.
Boyle, who closed his Benson dealership in October 1989, netted nearly $300,000 from his customers, suppliers, banks and the state Motor Vehicles Administration, the indictment says.
It's one of the biggest white-collar fraud cases in Harford County ever, says county State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly.
Boyle and his lawyer, William H. Murphy of Baltimore, could not be reached for comment. Boyle is free on $25,000 bail.
The indictment charges Boyle with 41 counts of theft, 19 counts of passing bad checks, five counts of attempted theft and 10 violations of the state car dealers code.
Houck says he went to Boyle's dealership on Sept. 28, 1989, to trade in a 1988 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z and purchase a black 1984 Nissan 200SX. Houck said he and Boyle agreed on a deal: Houck would give Boyle the Camaro plus $6,000 for the Nissan. And Boyle agreed to pay off Houck's bank loan on the Camaro, Houck said.
At the time, Houck said, he still owed $16,000 on the Chevrolet.
About two months later, Houck said, he received a notice from Chase Bank that he was behind in his car payments -- not for the Nissan, but for the Chevrolet.
Houck said he called Boyle Motorcars, but the dealership's telephone had been disconnected. He then went to the business, but the lot was vacant.
Houck traced the Chevrolet through the bank, saying that if he had to pay for the car, he wanted to have it.
Houck said he found that Boyle's bank, Forest Hill State, had repossessed the car and other cars at the dealership to recover money that Boyle owed the bank.
My car was taken and resold at auction," Houck said. "I traced it to a dealer in Pennsylvania, but it had been sold again. We never did find the car."
Meanwhile, Chase Bank last March sued Houck and his parents, who co-signed his car loan, to recover the money bank officials said he owed for the IROC-Z.
Chase Bank said he owed, with interest, nearly $19,000.
Houck and his parents, Donald Sr. and Edith, then filed suit against Boyle in May, contending that he was responsible for the loan payment on the Chevrolet.
The bank suits against the Houck family were settled last month, freeing the Houcks from financial responsibility for the Chevrolet. The banks, Chase and Forest Hill, agreed to split the money received from the sale of the car.
However, the suits have left the Houcks with legal fees totaling nearly $3,000, the family says.
Shane T. McBride, of Edgewood, is another of Boyle's customers who has told the state's attorney he was duped by Boyle.
McBride said he paid Boyle Motorcars $850 for a warranty when he bought a 1985 Ford Mustang GT in October 1989, just weeks before Boyle closed his dealership.
McBride said he never received the warranty documents in the mail. Now McBride is looking for ways to recover his losses.
Like Houck, McBride said he discovered problems with his deal when he was notified by his bank that he was behind in his payments on a 1986 Ford EXP, which he traded in at Boyle's for the Mustang.
McBride said Boyle agreed to pay off his loan balance on the Ford. At the time of the deal, McBride owed $6,230 on the car.
Meanwhile, McBride said, he would occasionally see Boyle at Boyle's father's dealership after the used car dealership closed. Each time, Boyle assured McBride that the loan problems would get straightened out, McBride said.
The problems were straightened out, but McBride said he had to straighten them out himself by going to the state Banking Commission.
The commission directed McBride's bank, Forest Hill State Bank, to free him from responsibility for the loan on the Ford.
McBride said his dealings with Boyle have left him bitter. He added that he doubts he will ever buy a car from a small dealership again.
"I feel sorry for all the people who had problems," McBride said. "I think Mr. Boyle deserves all he gets. Anything that happens to him is justified."
Boyle faces up to 15 years in prison for each of the theft and bad checks charges. The licensing violations carry penalties of up to one year in prison and fines.
The grand jury began investigating Boyle after his dealership closed in October 1989.
The case was referred to the county after the Motor Vehicles Administration received a number of complaints from the dealership's customers.
In addition to the criminal proceedings, Boyle faces at least four active civil suits, including the Houcks' suit, one suit filed by a bank and suits filed by other car dealerships, records in Harford Circuit Court show.
One other case against Boyle has been settled. Judge William O. Carr ordered Boyle to pay $21,800 to Miller Motors Inc. of Baltimore after he bought a 1988 Chevrolet Corvette in October 1989 with a bad check.
Miller attempted to get the Corvette back after the check was returned, but the car had already been sold, court records show.
Boyle, 28, operated Brook Boyle Motor Cars Ltd. in the 1600 block of Bel Air Road between August 1988 and October 1989, specializing in used luxury and sports cars.
Before opening the business, Boyle worked as sales manager for his father, Clarence, who operates Boyle Buick Co. on Route 924 in Abingdon.
Boyle worked at his father's dealership from his high school graduation in 1980 until he opened his own company.
It was incorrectly reported in the Oct. 14 edition of The Harford County Sun that the state Bank Commissioner directed Forest Hill State Bank to free Shane T. McBride of Edgewood from a car loan.Actually, Forest Hill Bank repossessed from Brook Boyle Motorcars Ltd. a car McBride had used as a trade-in at the dealership before it closed. The bank offered to return that car to McBride, but he declined the offer. The car was sold at auction. The Harford County Sun regrets the error.