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A Vermont State Trooper stands outside the Tornabene car dealership in Pownal Tuesday. IRS agents were also at the scene. (Keith Whitcomb Jr.)
A Vermont State Trooper stands outside the Tornabene car dealership in Pownal Tuesday. IRS agents were also at the scene. (Keith Whitcomb Jr.)
A Vermont State Trooper stands outside the Tornabene car dealership in Pownal Tuesday. IRS agents were also at the scene. (Keith Whitcomb Jr.)

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

POWNAL -- Agents from the Internal Revenue Service were seen at Joe Tornabene's Auto Sales & Service Tuesday morning.

They were there "in the course of their official duties," said Jessica Crocker, public information officer for the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit. Crocker said the agents were there because of a "court authorized action."

She would not comment on the nature of the investigation, nor would she say anything more about the matter. Agents at the site also declined to answer media questions.

Jody Tornabene, who owns the 7275 Route 7 business, was there Tuesday and said he had no comment.

From 1998 until 2011, the business was known as Tornabene's GMC. That company has been in business since 1988 and was started by Jody Tornabene and his father, Joseph Tornabene. Jody Tornabene told the Banner then that GM, which makes the GMC line of vehicles, abruptly severed its franchise agreement with little to no explanation. GM had dropped many small GMC dealers starting in 2009 when the recession was deepest.

According to the Pownal Town Clerk's Office, the IRS has had a $46,808 lien on Tornabene's Inc., since July 2011. Tornabene's Inc. is the corporate name Joe Tornabene's Auto Sales & Service is registered under with the Vermont Secretary of State.

Financial problems have also been reported at Next Door Beer and Wine, a store the Tornabenes own across the road from their auto dealership.


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In May, People's United Financial, otherwise known as People's United Bank, filed a foreclosure complaint against the liquor store, naming both Tornabenes and the Vermont Department of Taxes as defendants. The bank alleges that it holds a five-year promissory note, and a 12-year promissory note, which as of April 2013, the Tornabenes owed $2,400 and $27,000 on respectively. It also claims they own the bank on a business card for the amount of $16,000. It also claims it advanced $5,000 to redeem the business from tax sale.

The Tornabenes, through their attorney, denied the bank's claim. That case is still pending, and filings made in Vermont Superior Court indicate the parties are attempting to work out a solution and asked to extend a trial date that had been scheduled for August.

In November 2012, Williamstown Savings Bank, a division of Hoosac Bank, filed a complaint against Next Door Beer & Wine Inc., alleging it failed to make timely payments on a business loan agreement it entered in 1997. The bank claims the original agreement was for $75,000, and as of April 24, 2012, the outstanding balance on the principal was $74,750. The complaint, filed by Bennington attorney Thomas Jacobs, requests the court order the bank be compensated for what is left on the note. On May 24, Civil Court Judge Karen Carroll entered a judgment order in favor of the bank for $83,000, which included interest and court fees.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com; follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr