Car collection to be auctioned Saturday

It’s a sweet ride.

It’s a 1978 Chevy Cheyenne 10 pickup, painted a striking purple. It has custom rims and what appear to be new Cooper Cobra GT radial tires. A tag on the front bumper says “Pay Up, Sucka!”

What regional drug agents found most attractive was its engine. As they were seizing 28 vehicles from a man suspected of concealing his assets to launder drug money, they initially thought of leaving the pickup behind.

Then they looked at the engine, and discovered the guy had invested more than $10,000 in it. “We have the receipts to prove it,” said Sgt. Jonnie Ellerbee of the Metro Narcotics Task Force.

“It’s got a high-performance cam on it,” added Sgt. Rick Stinson. The carburetor’s all new. It has an Edelbrook performer air intake and Edelbrook valve covers – all added right before the agents took it.

Why do they like it?

“It’s an old-school hot rod,” Ellerbee said.

And it’s going up for bid Saturday at a public auction of goods seized in joint operations involving Metro Narcotics, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.

That federal involvement makes this auction of confiscated goods different than others hosted in the parking garage at the Columbus Public Safety Center, 510 10th St., said Stinson and Ellerbee. Usually the feds take their stuff to Macon, and auction it off in a junkyard behind the courthouse. This time the good stuff stays here.

Area residents who want to get in on the auction should get there and register before bidding starts at 9 a.m., Stinson said. The proceeds go back into drug-enforcement budgets.

The goods to be auctioned will be available for viewing starting at 8 a.m.Some of the vehicles are better than good.

Among them: a 2002 black Cadillac Deville, a 1999 black Mercury Marquis, a 2003 gray Mercedes E500 with Asanti rims, and a 1993 Chevrolet Caprice, its interior completely redone, its specialized rims in the center showing a dollar sign and the word “Greed.” There’s a Chevrolet Impala from 1996 – the last year the Impala was sold as a full-sized vehicle – with a supercharger on it.

“That is probably a $10,000 supercharger system on this car,” Stinson said Thursday, pointing it out under the open hood. “It will go.”

Also in the inventory: a 1999 maroon Ford F-150 XLT pickup with a Triton V-8 engine, a white 2003 GMC Yukon Denali, a pewter-gray 2005 Lincoln Navigator, and – another Stinson favorite – a burgundy 1977 Pontiac Gran Prix, with clean, chrome edging.

“We tried to keep a cover on this car,” Stinson said. All the seized vehicles were left atop the police parking garage off Fifth Avenue at Ninth Street. Exposed to the weather, the cover they put on the Pontiac kept blowing away. “We literally had to go get it off that church over there,” Stinson said, nodding toward a church building south of the garage.

Stinson and Ellerbee refused to name the man from whom the vehicles were seized, saying a criminal charge against him had not yet gone through the courts. They said the guy clearly was not paying taxes on the cash he had coming in, and had to put it somewhere, so he put it in cars.

“He likes the big, older cars,” Stinson said. “He had quite a collection of them.”

The suspect was renting property in both Georgia and Alabama, eight sites in four counties where vehicles were stored – all in good condition, some with modified interiors and upgraded engines.

“We maintain he was concealing his profits in these vehicles,” Stinson said. In fact, in the trunk of one car, agents found $100,000 cash, packaged in shrink-wrap.

Does that mean there’s $100,000 in the trunk of one of the cars being sold at auction?

Sure, Stinson joked: “We’re not going to tell you which one.”