Refund for stolen Lexus is too hot for buyer to handle
By STEPHANIE ZIMMERMANN Sun-Times Media May 13, 2012 11:24PM
THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU
Updated: June 15, 2012 10:52AM
Dear Fixer: My brother and his wife bought a 2003 Lexus GS 430 from Integrity of Chicago in December and were extremely happy with their purchase. It was my brother’s dream car. Then, three months after they bought it, they found out the car was reported stolen in Wisconsin.
The car is registered in his wife’s name. When the state police officer informed her that the Lexus was stolen … shock doesn’t describe how she felt. My brother was at work when all this happened, and my sister-in-law frantically called him. The police seized the car and he was left without a vehicle.
Can you please help my brother and his wife? They are both distraught and do not know where to turn.
Thomas Simpson, Joliet
Dear Thomas: When we first reached your brother, Alfred Sumler, in late March, he was on his cell phone with the sounds of an auto auction in the background. He and his wife, Valerie Williams, were hoping to find a decent cheap car, since they were having a terrible time commuting to their jobs from their home in Richton Park using only one vehicle.
Alfred was understandably furious and couldn’t figure out why the car dealer who sold him this stolen Lexus wouldn’t refund his money.
Worse, your brother and Valerie had paid $10,094 for the Lexus partly in cash and partly with a $7,500 bank loan that they were now paying off each month. And they had dumped more money for new tires, extra keys and repairs into the car.
(The story they got later from the authorities was that the Lexus apparently had been owned by a man in Wisconsin whose son swiped it and gave it to a drug dealer. It was driven to Chicago where it was sold to the car dealer. Donald Barclay, owner of Integrity of Chicago, said he had no reason to suspect anything. Barclay said he got scammed, too, because the seller traded it for a BMW 330 convertible off his lot.)
It turns out that in Illinois, unless a consumer can prove a car dealer knowingly sold a stolen car, they could be facing a long battle. There is no requirement for used car dealers to verify that a car is not “hot” — and the CARFAX reports that many of them run include accident and damage info but nothing about whether it might be stolen.
Your brother’s insurance company was no help since the car was seized by the cops, not stolen.
Still, The Fixer’s heart went out to Alfred and Valerie. In the midst of this, Alfred lost his job because he couldn’t get to work in Bolingbrook without a car.
Luckily, in addition to turning to The Fixer, Alfred and Valerie had also filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Illinois Secretary of State police were investigating, too, since the VIN was flagged by the SOS as belonging to a stolen car.
Dolores Rodman, a consumer advocate at the AG’s office, told The Fixer that when she heard this story, “I just wanted to get the money back for the consumer.”
With all three of us teaming up, your brother and his wife finally got their refund.
At first, Barclay had told The Fixer he wanted to let the matter run its course and find out whether Integrity could still recover the BMW. He told us he ultimately intended to pay Alfred and Valerie back.
But days were stretching into weeks, and we strongly felt that Alfred and Valerie shouldn’t have to wait any longer, regardless of the BMW. Rodman and the SOS investigator felt the same way. Both urged Integrity to make the refund quickly and sort out the rest later.
The car dealer finally agreed and cut a check for the full $10,094, which Valerie picked up May 1.
Alfred and Valerie are out the money they put into the car, but they are moving on. Alfred has found new employment and they’ve bought another vehicle.
Alfred wants the rest of us to be careful when purchasing a used car: “You’ve got people who are using their last hard-earned savings,” he said, and can’t afford to lose everything.
Coming Friday: More on how consumers can protect themselves.
Getting the runaround over a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at suntimes.com/fixer, where you’ll find a simple form to fill out. Because of the large volume of submissions, The Fixer can’t personally reply to every problem.