A downturn in the farm economy several years ago threatened to sink Bob Adams’ vehicle dealerships, which forced him to defraud creditors and customers to keep the businesses afloat, Adams told the Times Herald today.
Adams, 59, of Breda, faced decades in prison for his crimes, but in a plea agreement with prosecutors this week, he avoided a formal conviction and prison time when a judge granted him a deferred judgment and put him on probation.
If he had been convicted of a crime related to vehicle sales, Iowa law would have barred him from the business for five years.
Since his arrest in May 2018 for 16 criminal charges for theft, fraudulent sales practices and ongoing criminal conduct, Adams worked briefly for a dealership in Stuart and, for nearly a year, he has worked at a Storm Lake dealership, he said.
Reached by phone at that dealership this morning, Adams lamented the toll his actions have taken on his life and his family but said he had no other choice.
“Almost every dealer that I’ve talked to has told me that, ‘Bob, I know what you’re going through — I’ve been there,’ because this business is such a cash-demanding, intense business,” Adams said. “Anybody that knows me or worked for us knows that I gave and gave and gave, not only to the community, but to the people, until I couldn’t give anymore. When the farming economy turned south, we just couldn’t weather the storm, and that’s what brought this all on. That’s what brought 100 percent of this on.”
Adams operated Adams Motor Company dealerships in Denison, Manning and Ida Grove until the Iowa Department of Transportation revoked his licenses in 2018.
He was accused of selling vehicles and keeping the full proceeds, even though he owed money on the vehicles. He charged customers for vehicle warranties and insurance policies that were never activated. He charged customers inflated amounts for tax, title and license fees and kept the difference.
Those crimes spanned about two years, court records show.
If Adams abides by the terms of his probation, he will not be formally convicted of a crime and the records associated with his criminal case can be expunged. He pleaded guilty to felony fraudulent sales practices.
“There’s people that have said, ‘Boy, he sure got off easy, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,’ ” Adams said. “They have no idea. ... None of it was with malicious intent. We were strictly financially struggling.”
Crawford County Attorney Colin Johnson — who was recently appointed to the job — did not negotiate the plea deal but has said the punishment was appropriate.
“He’s on supervised probation for three years,” said Johnson, who succeeded former County Attorney Roger Sailer when he was recently appointed a district judge. “If he were to do something to violate that probation, he could go to prison for five years. That’s nothing to sneeze at.”
Adams has also been sued by his creditors and has judgments against him that total more than $1 million. He said he has paid back all the victims of his crimes for which he was charged in district court.
“The only people that have really trashed me are the people that don’t know me,” Adams said of the online comments he has read. “The people who are throwing me under the bus, they don’t know me. What do they gain by sticking the knife in my back and turning?”