I-Team Exposes The Problem of Curbstoning

Kate Shafie didn't want to talk to the I-Team after she tried to sell a 10News undercover producer a car. Before she drove away, Shafie showed the car she was running an ad for: a 2004 Ford Taurus SE selling for $7,450. The four door vehicle was advertised with 59,000 miles. The ad said the car was from a "retired original owner." Shafie told the producer the car which had Missouri license plates belonged to her parents.

While Shafie claimed the car was a family vehicle, the I-Team tracked the vehicle identification number (VIN) and found the CarFax for the Taurus. The car's history showed the car was driven a year and half as a corporate fleet vehicle.

The Ford Taurus' VIN.

When I-Team reporter Mitch Blacher asked Shafie, "You sell on Craigslist. How many have you sold?"

Shafie responded, "I don't have to answer that. That's none of your business."

For nine months, the I-Team tracked Shafie and a practice called "curbstoning," which is when licensed dealers sell cars while pretending to be private sellers or when unlicensed individuals routinely sell vehicles for profit. If caught, curbstoners face up to $1,000 fines for each violation, up to six months in jail or both. When it involves a licensed dealer, the California Department of Motor Vehicles can also take admistrative action.

"I have a dealer's license so I can sell as many as I need to," Shafie told the I-Team. She refused to show the I-Team her dealer's license. "Yeah, but I'm not going to dish it out to you," Shafie said. "That's my personal business."

Kate Shafie's car ad that the I-Team responded to.

Shafie does have a dealer's license, but she pretends to be a private seller. Shafie lists vehicles for sale on Craigslist, Autotrader, and in newspapers. The I-Team found at least a dozen different cars listed. In advertisements, she claims the car is being sold for a relative like her mother or father. Shafie uses different phone numbers and different names including Kat, Katey and Kitty.

"I'm doing everything by the law," Shafie told the I-Team while placing her hand in front of the 10News camera.

"Curbstoning deals are bad for consumers," said Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability. Shahan said customers don't really know who they are buying from and what they're buying when they deal with individual sellers. She said legitimate car dealers have to do things the legal way, while curbstoners can operate below the radar.

"I wanted everyone to be aware of Kate," said Barbara Perkins, who tried to buy a van from Shafie. When Perkins asked for her deposit back, she said Shafie told her forget it.

"The van was supposedly her grandfather's but that wasn't true," said Perkins who discovered the vehicle's history when she researched the 2001 Toyota van she planned to buy from Shafie. "The car has been bought and sold from auto auctions from Florida to California."

Perkins never got her money back and made it her mission to expose Shafie's business dealings.

A new state law, AB 2042 gives law enforcement the power to impound cars being sold by curbstoners. And the DMV has been cracking down too. The I-Team found that in the last three years, the DMV has investigated 367 curbstoning cases in San Diego county. Statewide, they have investigated 6,498 curbstoning cases.

The I-Team also found out this isn't the first time Shafie's been caught. According to the DMV, they "issued a warning letter to the Shafies, doing business as Quality Plus, notifying them against selling from unlicensed locations in violation of the California Vehicle Code. Katie Shafie was also verbally warned about violating the law by repairing vehicles without a license from the Bureau of Automotive Repair."