A classic car restorer who is accused in court documents of stealing money and automobile parts from his clients has given up his efforts to have about $600,000 in debts wiped out in a bankruptcy filing.
Kenny Key – whose Kenny’s Kustoms restoration shop in Longs has been the subject of numerous complaints filed in civil court by dissatisfied customers – filed paperwork last week agreeing to waive the discharge of his debts in a bankruptcy liquidation case filed in November. Key also agreed not to attempt to discharge his debts in any future bankruptcy filing. The waiver still needs the approval by a judge before it is final.
Key’s decision follows intense scrutiny of his finances by Michelle Vieira, the trustee in his case, and others within the U.S. Trustee’s office. It also comes one week before Vieira’s deadline to file a complaint against Key or file a motion to dismiss his case. With the waiver, Key’s case will remain open as the trustee searches for non-exempt assets to liquidate to pay his creditors.
Key could not be reached for comment Monday. Vieira and Jackson Turner-Vaught, Key’s lawyer, have told The Sun News that they do not comment on pending cases.
The waiver comes as good news to Bobby Ward, an Andrews resident who still is skeptical about whether he will get back any of the $16,000 he paid to Key to restore his 1939 Ford pickup truck. A year after taking the truck to Key, Ward said he learned no work had been done and Key refused to refund his money. When Ward finally retrieved the truck, he learned that its chassis had been cut and then welded back together in a way that made it unsafe to ever drive again.
“He has gotten away with stealing from people and we will never get any of our money,” said Ward, who obtained a civil judgment against Key but has never been paid. “He has lied from day one and continues to lie to get out of paying his debts. I pay my bills, why shouldn’t he?”
Ward’s judgment is one of nearly a dozen lawsuits and judgments filed against Key, according to his bankruptcy filings.
Among the largest judgments is $275,950 that Key owes to Virginia resident William Elliott for taking money but failing to do any work on a pair of classic cars – a 1955 Ford Thunderbird and a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible. Elliott said both cars were ruined while sitting untouched at Kenny’s Kustoms.
Vieira’s scrutiny of Key’s bankruptcy filing increased after she learned Key tried this to sell a 1951 Ford chassis as well as other cars and assorted automobile and motorcycle parts, tools and equipment on Craigslist. Key had not disclosed those items on the list of assets he provided to the bankruptcy court.
Key also tried to sell his shop through a Craigslist ad that stated the owner is “retiring soon” and “all equipment, tools, parts and cars [are] for sale.”
Key previously told The Sun News that he does not own the items he tried to sell on Craigslist, but is selling them for customers. He said the tools and equipment he tried to sell belong to mechanics hired to work at his shop.
The Craigslist ads prompted Vieira to seek an order forcing Key to turn over the computers used to create the ads, provide access to all of his business records and allow the trustee’s office to inspect his home and business to look for hidden assets. The trustee’s office also took depositions of Key, his wife and the accountant for Kenny’s Kustoms.
After the Craigslist ads came to light, Key filed amended statements with the bankruptcy court in which he said he also sold three other cars for customers over the past year. Key did not identify the cars’ owners, referring to them on court documents as “random customer.”
The discovery of previously undisclosed assets means there might be some money to distribute to Key’s creditors, who have until Friday to file a claim with the bankruptcy court. To date, seven claims totaling nearly $358,000 have been filed against Key.
Key’s bankruptcy documents shows Kenny’s Kustoms took in $165,555 in 2011 and $103,029 last year. Key reported that he pays himself a $1,000 monthly salary. It’s not clear where the rest of the money from Kenny’s Kustoms has gone. On bankruptcy documents, Key and his wife say they own no real property and their vehicles – a 2003 Chevy Silverado and a 2004 Chevy Suburban – are worth less than $10,000 combined. Their other reported assets total about $4,000 – mostly clothing and household items.