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DENISON, Iowa -- A Denison auto dealer has pleaded not guilty to theft and performing fraudulent sales practices at his dealerships.

Robert Adams, 57, entered his written plea Wednesday in Crawford County District Court to 11 counts of first-degree theft, three counts of second-degree theft and single counts of commission of a specified unlawful activity and fraudulent sales practices. His trial was set for Sept. 25.

Customers claim that Adams mishandled money paid to him for services related to vehicle purchases. An investigation by the Iowa Department of Transportation's Bureau of Investigation & Identity Protection claims that funds paid by customers for title transfers, warranty contracts and protection plans were kept by the dealership and not forwarded to the agencies that provide those services, leaving customers without the coverage for which they had paid.

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The dealership also sold vehicles that had outstanding loans and then failed to pay off lending institutions. Customers who bought those vehicles were unable to get a clear title because the lending institution maintains possession of the title until the loans are paid, the IDOT said.

Adams' attorney has said that the IDOT does not have all the facts and Adams will be exonerated.

The IDOT has revoked state licenses for Adams' dealerships in Denison, Ida Grove and Manning. Adams has appealed the decision, and the dealerships remain open pending a ruling on the appeal.

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