Action 9 investigates risky car loans



An Orange County man paid nearly $5,000 for a car that the dealer then repossessed in less than three months.

But Wilfredo Villanueva claims the dealer never tried to finance the vehicle, so he called Action 9 for help.

Villanueva found a 2013 Hyundai Sonata at Starmax Finance and put down a $3,000 deposit. He said the contract included financing for $18,000 but a month later, Starmax Finance couldn't get the loan approved and demanded another $2,500 upfront.

Villanueva then said when he missed a deposit payment by a few days, Starmax repossessed the car.

"They didn't explain anything and didn't tell me they could repossess using cruel tactics," he said.

According to Villanueva, Starmax also made him sign a document that allowed repossession without a court order or any judicial process for missing any payment.

Action 9 showed that agreement to consumer attorney Steve Fahlgren, who said it stripped consumers of rights they can't give away.

"It's unconscionable. You're not supposed to repo anything without giving notice to the consumer, and the law is very clear about that," said Fahlgren.

At Starmax, the manager told Action 9 Wilfredo was late, so it could repossess.
"What bank turned him down?" asked Action 9's Todd Ulrich.

"Why would I give you that information? Ask him," replied the manager.

The manager declined to discuss that repossession agreement.

"The contract and deal I saw seemed to defy common sense," said Ulrich.

"We financed it.  We have a signed contract with Starmax Finance," the manager said.

Villanueva also took his complaint to the Division of Motor Vehicles.    

After the car was repossessed, Villanueva was approved for a new car loan from a new car dealership, so he claims Starmax never tried to finance the deal.

A local consumer attorney has offered to take the case.