Action 9 has been digging deeper into customer complaints made to law enforcement agencies claiming a local dealership stole their cars.
They dialed 911 for help and claimed their cars were sold on consignment but then the dealer didn't pay them.
Consumer investigator Todd Ulrich found customers who feel sheriff's investigators keep ignoring their pleas for help.
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“Where is your car today?” Ulrich asked.
“I have no idea,” Don Fiorelli replied.
He said his restored 1964 Chevy Nova sold on consignment at Just Toys Classic Cars. The contract price was $23,000.
Ten weeks later, he claims the company president, Mike Smith, hasn't paid him a dime.
“I would like my money or my car back,” Fiorelli said.
He’s one of six customers who contacted Action 9 since the first investigation. Then Action 9 found a dozen car owners claiming their vehicles were sold but Just Toys didn't pay them and that calls to regulators and deputies were dead ends.
Car owners were so frantic, many of them dialed 911 just this past year.
Action 9 found at least 30 calls involved disputes between the dealership and its customers.
One woman can be heard fighting to get her car back. “The situation got hostile and we're now fearing for our safety,” she said to the 911 operator.
“I need a cop to confront them because I think my car's been stolen,” said another caller.
And yet another similar call, “I'm calling to tell you it's been stolen.”
The common complaint from many of the 911 callers is that Just Toys sold their vehicles, but they never saw any of the money.
“Law enforcement needs to do a better job,” said attorney Curt Jacobus. He represented a customer who claimed Just Toys didn't pay after his car sold.
Jacobus convinced state investigators to charge company co-owner Mike Smith Jr. with criminal grand theft and title fraud. The charges were dropped when the dealership paid up.
But Jacobus says too many cases are dismissed by Orange County Sheriff's Office investigators as civil contract disputes.
“You can't just say it's civil and walk away,” Jacobus said.
“That's what they're doing?” Ulrich asked.
“Oh, 100 percent, yes,” Jacobus replied.
The dealership recently moved to a new location and filed bankruptcy to reorganize.
Its owner told Ulrich that bankruptcy court now controls paying refunds and he's done nothing wrong.
Fiorelli met with sheriff's investigators again trying to convince them it is a criminal case.
“I don't see where it's a civil matter because it's a stolen car,” Fiorelli said.
The Sheriff's Office did not respond to Ulrich’s questions.
Ray Rollins, the customer who sparked Action 9’s investigation, died this past weekend. He was the one who first asked, “Why isn't there a criminal investigation?”
There is a bankruptcy hearing next month for Just Toys Classic Cars.
Just Toys Classic Cars response:
Good afternoon, thank you for reaching out to us before you air the story. You will see attached the wire transfer sheet that the funds were sent to Mr. Fiorelli from our bank on 11/16/18 for the full amount that he was owed. Due to an incorrect account number that Mr. Fiorelli gave us the wire transfer failed and was sent back to us. We had several conversations with Mr. Fiorelli to get this taken care of after he sent us different wire instructions to resend the money. At this point we are in chapter 11 bankruptcy and the judge has prevented us from doing anything with those funds until after a hearing the first part of march. We thank you again for reaching out to us regarding this matter.
Cox Media Group