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Local car dealer charged with selling vehicles without a license

WORTHINGTON -- Charles Bernie Top, 68, of Top Auto Sales, has been charged with selling used motor vehicles without a license, according to Nobles County District Court documents.

A police report filed July 1 states Top's license was cancelled by the state in June. The detective who wrote the report stated Top told him he had no intention of renewing the bond required by the state to possess a dealer's license because he was going out of business.

A representative of the vehicle crimes task force told the detective Top had 30 days to liquidate his inventory at a wholesale level, and was not allowed to sell at retail. After those 30 days, Top would be required to register each vehicle in his name and pay Minnesota sales tax on the vehicles.

An inventory of the lot was completed June 28, but on July 19 law enforcement officials learned Top had allegedly sold a vehicle after the license was cancelled.

The detective learned Top had allegedly taken possession of a 1999 Oldsmobile July 10 and sold it July 12.

Top allegedly told the detective July 12 he knew he was not supposed to complete any dealer sales, but the detective noted the dealer's license was still displayed on the wall of the business. The detective took possession of the dealer certificate, 21-day permits and three dealer plates, but in a letter to the state noted "He told me he has no other plates, but I'm guessing he does."

The detective wrote that Top continues to keep office hours at his business on Kragness Road, claiming he is there only to collect payments, and still has cars on his lot.

This is not Top's first brush with the law when it comes to selling cars legally, according to MNCIS, Minnesota's court documentation system.

Top, who lives in Edgerton, was charged in April 1999 with 28 counts of engaging in financial business transaction without a license. In August 1999, he was charged with aggravated forgery, failure to pay over state funds, fraud and engaging in business without a license. In March 2000, he was again charged with failure to pay state funds, along with two more counts of fraud and engaging in financial business transaction without a license.

He pleaded on four cases at one time, admitting to all 28 counts from the first case, plus engaging in business without a license. He was fined more than $7,000 on May 30, 2000, but imposition of any sentence was stayed on the condition he serve four years of supervised probation and receive no violations misdemeanor or greater during that time.

Court records show this was not the case. In March 2002, Top was charged with three counts of failure to remit taxes, three counts of false information on an application and four counts of failure to deliver titles. He also was charged with one count of misuse of dealer plates. He later pleaded guilty Oct. 26, 2004, to one count of putting false information on an application and two counts of failure to deliver titles. That plea and the sentencing came less than six months after his probational period had ended, but the alleged crimes took place during that four-year sentence. He was fined another $1,945 and sentenced to two more years of probation, which would end Oct. 26, 2006.

In April 2004 he pleaded guilty to permitting an illegal operation, and was fined $165. He was charged in February 2009 with altering mileage regarding an odometer, but that allegation was later dismissed.