Judge sides with Kruse on vehicles

April 11, 2019 GMT

The Dean V. Kruse Foundation did not mislead or defraud the Ontario Regiment Museum when it sold the Canadian institution World War II-era vehicles in 2017, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Museum President Alan Duffy bought three vehicles worth more than $250,000 at auction from the Auburn foundation, which is now defunct and had operated the Kruse Museums and Expo Center.

Two of the vehicles : a 1943-44 Opel and a 1944 Panzer Jager Marder III : are “worth little or nothing to a real museum,” according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne.

Duffy thought the vehicles, which were recovered from European battlefields by a Belgian museum, were largely untouched. He was surprised when they arrived in Oshawa : a city on Lake Ontario, about 30 miles from Toronto : without engines or transmissions.

The Opel had “no real armor plate,” and several other parts on the vehicle were retooled to look like they were in working order, court documents alleged.

The lawsuit accused the foundation of misrepresenting the condition of the vehicles and defrauding the museum out of the money it spent to purchase them.

Judge William C. Lee disagreed and wrote in a 20-page opinion Duffy should have been more discerning.

Materials including a book that detailed efforts to reconstruct damaged vehicles and photos provided to buyers clearly indicated the condition of the vehicles, Lee wrote, and the company that ran the auction noted purchases were “as is.”

Duffy also admitted not traveling to Auburn or sending someone to inspect the vehicle : actions he typically takes when buying items for the museum, according to court documents.

The foundation never marketed the vehicles as “original World War II memorabilia,” Lee wrote.

“The record is void of any facts suggesting that the foundation intended to deceive (Duffy and the museum) or that the foundation represented the Opel and Marder as original vehicles as opposed to refabricated vehicles,” the order states. “Rather, (Duffy and the museum) made assumptions regarding the ‘museum quality’ of the pieces without making any inquiries.”

Jason Bontrager, former U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman and John Kruse, Dean Kruse’s nephew, bought the Kruse Museums and Expo Center in January and announced Wednesday it has been renamed Kruse Plaza.

The Ontario Regiment Museum has “Canada’s largest collection of operational military vehicles,” according to its website.