Former U.S. Congressman Mark Foley is among dozens of rich and powerful Palm Beach, Florida, residents who may have been taken for a ride by the owner of a bankrupt car dealership that specializes in the sale of used luxury cars.
Former U.S. Congressman Mark Foley claims he is a victim of a pyramid scheme involving Chariots of Palm Beach dealership
West Palm Beach-based dealership Chariots of Palm Beach could leave banks and high society car owners up to $50 million in the hole, according to federal court papers.
The dealership’s founder, Hugh Dixon Bate, is a frequent guest of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and is accused of using ownership documents of cars consigned with him as collateral to obtain millions in loans from banks and lenders.
Foley, a five-term Republican congressman, who resigned his seat in 2006 after he sexted with an underage male congressional page, claims he is a victim of Bate’s pyramid scheme.
Foley exclusively told DailyMail.com that he was swindled out of his Porsche and $57,886 from the bankrupt dealership that specializes in the resale of Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Aston Martins, Ferraris and other exotic wheels.
The 63-year-old said: ‘We’re not dealing with billions like Bernie Madoff,’ referring to the former Wall Street investor now serving 150 years in a federal penitentiary after milking investors out of $13 billion.
Foley, who resigned from his Republican seat in 2006 over a sexting scandal that involved an underage male page, said a buyer purchased his Porsche Macan (pictured) from the dealership for $57,886. However, the dealership never paid him his money, Foley said
The dealership is owned by Hugh Dixon Bate (pictured), who is accused of using the ownership documents of cars consigned with him as collateral to obtain millions in loans from at least eight banks and private lenders. Bate is a frequent visitor of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate
‘But I am the victim of a classic pyramid scheme.’
Chariots of Palm Beach acted like a fancy consignment store where multi-millionaires dropped off cars they no longer wanted.
The dealership simply tried to sell those cars for a previously negotiated commission in the 10 percent range.
Over the past few months, however, Bate, the dealership’s founder, is believed to have used the titles, or ownership papers, to cars he didn’t own to secure millions in loans that he has been unable to pay back.
Here is how it worked, according to Foley.
He said: ‘Sellers who used Chariots of Palm Beach would bring in the title to the cars. Once a buyer was ready to pay for a car and drive away, the seller was supposed to go to the dealership to sign the title and hand it over to the buyer.’
Recently, however, the procedure changed, he claims.
Foley and others like him never signed their titles to new exotic-car owners who are now driving their fancy new cars all over South Florida without proper ownership papers.
Chariots of Palm Beach is based in West Palm Beach and specializes in the sale of used luxury cars including Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Aston Martins, Ferraris and other exotic wheels
Foley said: ‘We’re not dealing with billions like Bernie Madoff. But I am the victim of a classic pyramid scheme.’ He has since filed criminal complaints with the FBI and local police
And the money that Chariots of Palm Beach received from buyers is tied up in bankruptcy proceedings.
‘It’s a real mess,’ says Foley. ‘A federal court might have to determine the ownership of hundreds of cars.’
On August 10, Foley explained he was coincidentally at the Chariots of Palm Beach showroom when a shopper decided to buy the silver-colored small SUV Porsche Foley wanted to unload.
Foley had bought it last year for $68,000 cash, and took it to the dealership in May.
Foley says the man paid the dealership $57,886 for his car before peeling off as he waved bye.
Nearly two months later, Foley is still waiting for the dealership to pay him – and he is worried he might never get his money.
‘I watched my car drive off and I understood fairly quickly it would take the help of the court system for me to get my money,’ he says.
‘I felt like I’d been carjacked, except that nobody stuck a gun in a face and yelled at me to get out of my car.’
Foley thought about his Porsche Macan’s title long after the new owner left.
Dealership officials then told him to take it up with the court system and Foley still has no idea what happened to the ownership papers.
‘The guy who bought my car didn’t do anything wrong,’ Foley says. ‘He probably thinks he now owns a nice Porsche. It’s the dealership that did God knows what with my title.’
According to Foley he never signed off on his car’s ownership papers and dealership officials told him to take it up with the court system, meaning Foley has no idea what happened to his ownership papers
Why would Foley sell his car through a consignment dealership instead of bringing it to an official Porsche business?
High-end car consignment stores are dime a dozen in South Florida, where motorists often are what they drive.
‘Chariots had an extraordinary reputation,’ Foley said. ‘They usually were able to get a better sales price for used cars than the official dealerships.’
There was, however, a lot that Foley and other sellers didn’t know about Chariots of Palm Beach – behind-the-scenes documents that spelled out the company’s recent federal bankruptcy in a filing obtained by DailyMail.com.
The court papers show founder Bate is accused of using the ownership documents of cars consigned with him as collateral to obtain millions in loans from at least eight banks and private lenders.
At times, the documents read, Bate allegedly obtained several loans on the title of one single car and may have duplicated some titles without the rightful owners’ knowledge.
Bate, 60, is also accused by Foley and others of trying to keep his business afloat by using the money from recent sellers to pay for earlier deals he brokered.
And now, the ownership status of dozens of consigned Aston Martins, Bentley Azures and Ferrari Spiders, some of them worth in excess of $400,000, are in limbo.
Foley, pictured with Clint Eastwood and Sean Spicer in the 1990s, accuses Bate of trying to keep his business afloat by using money from recent sellers to pay for earlier deals he brokered
Bate, who runs the dealership, is a permanent fixture at local black-tie galas as well as Mar-a-Lago, the private club owned by President Donald Trump
The list of car owners included in the bankruptcy reads like a who’s who of East Coast business and society, including: New York real estate company owner Stephen Haymes; Palm Beach philanthropist Ross Meltzer, who brought a convertible Bentley to Chariots of Palm Beach months ago; Wolf Von Falkenberg, who’s famous in Palm Beach for his marriage to Standard Oil heiress Anne Terry Pierce McBride while she was on her deathbed; and Washington, D.C., developer Albert Van Metre Jr.
Former Assistant Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Rick Facchine, whose BMW M4 is gathering dust in the shuttered up showroom, is also among the alleged victims.
His car wasn’t sold, but he can’t get it back because the title may have been used by Bate to get a lender to loan him money. Facchine declined comment.
The Chariots of Palm Beach bankruptcy sent shockwaves in the South Florida luxury car business. The company maintained a sterling reputation for more than 20 years as the go-to dealer of hard-to-find vehicles.
It shipped cars from U.S. owners to Middle Eastern oil tycoons and European blue bloods, and imported exotic cars from around the world for Palm Beach’s richest.
Now, Foley said he and others filed criminal complaints with the FBI and West Palm Beach Police. The investigations are pending and authorities don’t comment on pending probes.
Chariots of Palm Beach owner Bate, an Englishman who started selling cars in Palm Beach in the mid-1990s, is well entrenched in Palm Beach society.
He’s a permanent fixture at local black-tie galas as well as Mar-a-Lago, the private club owned by President Donald Trump.
Over the years Bate, who didn’t respond to several attempts to obtain his comments, was synonymous with exotic cars in an area where the average house for sale hovers around $2.5million.
‘He lied to me and he lied to a lot of people,’ Foley says, ‘Everyday, we are confronted by people who deceive others out of sheer greed.
‘While all this was going on, he told me he was going on vacation in Europe.’