A Belleville auto dealer alleges fraud in a suit against United Auto Parts and one of its employees, saying the employee purposefully misrepresented the amount of inventory owned in the company.

Oliver C. Joseph, which owns BTJ Enterprises, claims BTJ entered into an agreement with defendants United Auto Parts and Bob Lelly for the purchase of various pieces of inventory. In turn, Lelly agreed to work for Joseph and then be leased to BTJ to continue running and operating United Auto Parts on behalf of BTJ, according to the complaint filed Jan. 30 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

During his tenure for the defendants, Lelly provided a written inventory and was exclusively responsible for maintaining an accounting for the inventory for United Auto Parts, the suit states.

After Lelly's tenure ended on Dec. 5, 2013, Joseph has a physical inventory taken and determined that about $80,000 in inventory was missing, the complaint says.

"Plaintiff believes that the defendants are responsible for the shortfall as (1) the defendants inflated the value of the inventory at the time of plaintiff's purchase, and (2) that defendant Bob Lelly converted inventory/money during his employment with plaintiff," the suit states.

Joseph claims Lelly had developed a scheme to purchase inventory with BTJ's money and fail to account for it in the computer inventory system, which would allow Lelly to pocket the proceeds.

The complaint also says Lelly diverted customers away from the plaintiff.

"Not long after defendant Lelly left the employment of the plaintiff (less than one year), the plaintiff noticed a significant decrease not only in business, but in phone calls and prior customers' willingness to do business with the plaintiff," the suit states. "On information and belief, plaintiff suspects that defendant Lelly interfered with plaintiff's relationship with their customers in violation of the non-solicitation provisions of the employment agreement."

In his complaint, Joseph is seeking $230,000, plus attorneys' fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

He will be represented by Matthew J. Marlen of Belleville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 15-L-50.

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