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OXFORD, Miss. (CN) - While he was hospitalized with depression, a car dealer says, his business associates took all the cars from his lot, sold what they could, forged checks and set him up to be arrested for selling mortgaged property.

In his federal complaint, Tony Owens says he was hospitalized for depression when his car business suffered financial problems; his business partner and associates offered to help him out while he was gone.

But he says his partner and two other men took his "entire vehicle inventory" off the lot, including cars subject to liens from financial institutions. When he got out of the hospital, Owens says, he was arrested and charged with selling mortgaged vehicles and writing bad checks. He says the charges were based on false information from one of the men who took the cars, and from City Auto Finance.

Owens claims Brian Sullivan forged his name on two checks and then signed an affidavit claiming that Owens had written the checks.

Among the defendants are Owens' old partner, Roger Mitchell; his associates, Sullivan and James Foreman; and the City of Aberdeen and Monroe County, which he accuses of issuing the arrest warrant without probable cause and failing to properly investigate the "baseless" charges.

Owens says he was jailed for 62 days, 35 of them in solitary confinement. He says the city and county set a "high bail" but would not allow him to put his home up as security and he was forced to pay a bail bondsman.

Also named in the civil rights and conversion lawsuit is the arresting officer, Aaron Fontenot, and Owens' business associate Darrell Inmon.

Owens is represented by Jim Waide of Tupelo.

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