One could argue Zachary Moore's downfall began with an innocuous story WCCO-TV ran about his business back in May 2011.
When he was only 18 years old Moore started a business called Civics Reborn, where he stripped, refurbished and sold Honda Civics made between 1992 and 1995. It was a great idea: he bought the Civic's ubiquitous parts in bulk for cheap and swapped everything in need of repair out quickly to give a penny-pinching customer a reliable, fuel-efficient Civic that was almost like new.
Three years after he started Civics Reborn business exploded when everybody started freaking out over gas prices (remember that?). Moore told WCCO his business quadrupled in the span of three months.
Once the story aired WCCO received a number of complaints about Civics Reborn and ran a follow-up story describing his poorly-run business two months later. Moore had developed a habit of taking a bunch of money from his customers upfront, then not delivering the promised refurbished Civic for months, if at all. According to the story:
Defendants claim that Moore was initially attentive with customers until after they paid for the car and refurbishments in full, then he became almost impossible to contact. He also moved his company's location six times, failing to pay full rent to each landlord before relocating.
The majority of the money Moore is accused of stealing came from Barbara Jo Curry, a schoolteacher who invested $79,000 of her retirement money in Civics Reborn. Curry says Moore claimed her financial backing helped fill all of his outstanding orders, and was unaware that almost three dozen police complaints had been filed against him.
Sometimes he would give disgruntled customers unsafe, crappy loaners while he worked on his business's daunting backlog. According to the Hennepin County Attorney's office:
Melissa Hadaway told the court the car was not delivered, but [Moore] finally gave her a loaner. As she was driving to work on the freeway, smoke billowed out of the engine and into the passenger compartment. She could not see and had to pull over and construction workers ran to make sure she was safe.
The Minnesota State Patrol launched an investigation into Civics Reborn, and in September 2013 he was charged with felony aggravated theft by swindle for stealing $127,839 from 33 people. Later that ballooned to $250,000 worth of restitution due to 36 victims.
"This was an example of where we took what looked like just a poor business operation and after an excellent investigation by the Minnesota State Patrol, we realized it was really a criminal scam," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a press release last week. "A lot of people came to Civics Reborn looking for an economical means of getting to work and all they got was deceptions and lies."
Moore's victims were out in force when he was sentenced last Friday. He received 100 days in the county workhouse, 10 years probation and must pay $250,000 in restitution to his victims within 10 years. If he violates his probation he'll immediately go to prison for 68 months.
According to the Hennepin County Attorney's office, Jim Carroll, a disabled Vietnam veteran, said he and his wife were buying the car to help their daughter. Over time, they were shown three different Civics by employees, but none were delivered because they had not quite finished the work. The last one had a car's engine sitting in the back seat, he said.
"Zachary Moore thinks he's the smartest man in the room," said Carroll in a victim impact statement. "He has no integrity. It's time for Zachary Moore to man up."
Moore, now 25, apologized at his sentencing and vowed to pay everyone back.
"This is not who I want to be in life," he said.
Send news tips to Ben Johnson.