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Oswego firm drawn into vehicle saga

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The owner of an Oswego County company had no idea until last week that his storage and distribution firm would be helping to straighten out the mess left behind by Fort Drum Vehicle Storage LLP.

George P. Joyce, CEO of Laser Transit Ltd., Lacona, said Monday that his company is helping the state attorney general’s office retrieve more than 150 vehicles that are owned by deployed Fort Drum soldiers and are being stored in two warehousing facilities in Oswego County.

With help that Fort Drum officials arranged, about 15 soldiers traveled to Oswego by van Friday and managed to get back their vehicles. But about 150 more cars remain in Sandy Creek and Oswego, Mr. Joyce said.

“We’re doing everything we can to get the vehicles back to the soldiers,” he said.

On Monday, he said he was left in the dark about what was happening to the soldiers. He did not know the owners of Fort Drum Vehicle Storage LLP — which was headquartered until recently in a storefront office on Route 11 in Evans Mills — had left without any plans to return the vehicle to soldiers when they arrived home from deployment. He was merely renting out about 30,000 square feet of space to the storage company, he said.

Soldiers, who were paying $100 to $150 a month to store them, were never told their vehicles had been moved out of Jefferson County.

It was not until the middle of last week when some soldiers returned home that the situation came to light and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office got involved. Mr. Joyce said his company has been working with the attorney general’s office to resolve the matter. He said he inventoried the cars and provided registration information to the office.

The vehicles ended up at the Oswego County facilities months ago, although it remains unclear how or why that happened.

Mr. Joyce said he suspected something was awry because his company could not track down Fort Drum Vehicle Storage owner JoAnn Sanchez-Norquist and her management team.

“We were just not getting any response,” he said, noting that his company is out “a substantial amount of money” in unpaid rent.

Ms. Sanchez-Norquist is believed to have moved to Las Vegas; her chief financial officer, Ruby “Charlene” Williams, followed her there, former employees said.

For about a year, Fort Drum Vehicle Storage went through financial problems when Ms. Sanchez-Norquist lost several properties she had owned for failing to pay taxes, including a warehouse on West Main Street in Watertown where dozens of vehicles had been stored.

At one time this winter, vehicles were stored outside at the Hotis Motel at 23442 Route 37 in the town of Pamelia, where the business office once had been. The company sought to rent warehouse space in a building on Bradley Street in Watertown, but those plans fell apart.

While all of that was going on, the vehicles apparently just sat in Oswego County, receiving no maintenance. A soldier who got her 2010 Dodge Charger back Friday said she has to replace the car’s brakes and rotors and possibly its tires because no one apparently started its engine or moved it for months.

Mr. Joyce said he had no idea what kind of maintenance was done on the vehicles. Soldiers paid for the Evans Mills company to supply those services.

“The extent of neglect and consequences, thereof, is being assessed as this investigation continues,” the attorney general’s office said in an email.

As of Friday, Fort Drum Vehicle Storage no longer has any control over vehicles left in the Oswego County warehousing facilities. The attorney general’s office met with the company’s last employee, a secretary, to expedite the transfer of the vehicles, a spokesman with the office said Monday.

The attorney general’s office has taken possession of the keys and company files, and has turned them over to Laser Transit, the spokesman said. The office also is sending a letter to all the soldiers affected. They are being given three options: they can arrange with Laser Transit to leave their vehicles in Oswego County, move their vehicles to a free unsecured lot on post or make other private arrangements.

The memo to soldiers can be found at wdt.me/43rzkV. The attorney general’s office complaint form can be found at wdt.me/CF-2013.

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