American Express files suit against North River Boats

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Legal problems continue for Oregon-based North River Boats Inc. with a recent lawsuit filed by American Express.

American Express Travel Related Services Co. Inc. filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Douglas County Circuit Court against the company and its president and owner Brian Brush, according to a report in The News-Review. The lawsuit claims Brush and the company owe nearly $500,000 in charges on a company credit card, plus interest, the newspaper reports.

Calls to the company this morning were not immediately returned.

The Roseburg, Ore., boatbuilder shut down operations two months ago following FBI allegations that the company illegally inflated its inventory to obtain millions in financing from Wells Fargo Bank.

In addition to the boatbuilding plant, the company also has four retail outlets under the name North River Marine. In 2006, Wells Fargo Bank extended the retail company an $8 million working-capital line of credit. That was increased to $10 million in October 2007.

Wells Fargo closed the line of credit in February 2009 after it was unable to verify certain invoices, according to an FBI affidavit. North River Marine closed and surrendered its assets to the bank Feb. 28.

The retail stores were reopened in March by Inverness Group LLC, a firm retained by Wells Fargo to help the bank sell North River Marine’s inventory, in order to recover some of the bank’s estimated $3.3 million loss, the newspaper reports. The retail stores were closed after the inventory was sold.

North River Boats had closed its plant just days after the allegations of fraud surfaced in April. The closure left about 100 people without jobs, but 40 employees were brought back to work May 1 and are still working at the production plant, the newspaper reports.

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