Although Kruse has faced numerous challenges in civil court, the felony theft charge marks a new approach. It is unclear whether Dauphin County authorities will try to extradite Kruse. Messages left Tuesday with investigators in Dauphin County were not returned.
Kruse was considered one of the fathers of the American automobile auction industry and held one of the world’s top auctions for years in Auburn. His financial woes brought down the empire last year when complaints led to the suspension of his auctioneer’s license and revocation of his auction house.
He has been sued repeatedly in recent years, in multiple states, for his business practices. He sold his large auction-park property south of Auburn last year to Auctions America by RM, a subsidiary of one-time Kruse rival RM Auctions.
Kruse has said previously his financial problems began at the onset of the recession when he began releasing sold vehicles without first securing payment. In August 2009, Kruse endured a spate of bad publicity as unhappy customers sought out media days before what would be Kruse International’s last Auburn auction.
Kruse’s final Hershey auction led to several lawsuits, including one filed by the auction venue, according to DeKalb County court records.
This is a common complaint you hear from people defrauded out of their money in transactions with unscrupulous business operators. If a person steals your car, the prosecutor has no qualms with bringing criminal charges against the person who stole your car. If the person steals that same car from you in a business transaction by refusing to pay you, prosecutors will often tell you that it is a civil matter with which they can't be bothered.
By way of comparison, special prosecutor Dan Sigler charged Secretary of State Charlie White with felony theft for drawing a salary as a Fishers Town Council member for a period of a few months during which he did not reside in his district, although nobody questions that he performed the duties of his office and White actually returned the salary he earned. Kruse sold a number of automobiles at his car auction in Auburn, Indiana and accepted payment from the buyers, but he never turned the net proceeds of the sales over to the sellers. No prosecutor in DeKalb County has charged him with theft. It seems like an unequal application of our criminal laws.