SAN DIEGO - A local military veteran saved his money to buy a used car only to find out it is not his at all.
Michael Bentley served in the Navy and was stationed in San Diego. He told Team 10, "I lived out here when I was in the military; loved it out here."
Bentley moved back to San Diego for a new job. He knew he needed a car, so he went to Quality Auto Group on Miramar Road to buy one.
"It's a 2010 Nissan Altima. I liked it because it had a nice four-cylinder [engine]," Bentley said.
He had no issues at first, but a few months later, he was pulled over for having an unregistered vehicle.
Bentley has been pulled over twice so far and has had to pay a couple hundred dollars' worth of tickets.
His temporary tags had expired. Bentley was waiting for his permanent license plates and registration from Quality Auto Group, but they never came.
Bentley called the business several times, but he could not get a hold of anyone. He later learned Quality Auto Group went out of business, leaving him with unanswered questions.
"I don't want to be driving an illegal car," Bentley said.
Bentley later learned the Nissan he bought also had an outstanding lien. His lawyer told Team 10 the dealership did not have clear title and never properly registered the car with the DMV, which is a violation of the vehicle code.
A DMV spokesperson said the vehicle code requires the dealer "has 21 working days to pay off the specified amount on the prior credit for a vehicle purchased or obtained in trade."
"I feel duped big time," Bentley said.
Bentley can't get a hold of anyone who was part of the sale.
"I pretty much have a $17,000 paperweight," Bentley told Team 10.
Team 10 went to an address listed for the dealership owner, Manouchehr Sorbi. Nobody answered the door and the front room looked empty, except for a dog inside.
Consumer advocate Rosemary Shahan said it is far too easy for small dealerships like Quality Auto Group to disappear and reappear.
"Very often, they just start up under another relative's name so they go in and out of business over and over again," said Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.
Shahan recommends shoppers looking for a used car ask to see the actual title and double check it with the DMV.
Bentley plans to file a civil lawsuit. He is sharing his story so others will not have to deal with a similar predicament.
"Ultimately, it falls back on me to where I'm kind of stuck," Bentley.
A DMV spokesperson confirmed there were three cases against Quality Auto Group, but did not go into detail. Those cases are now closed, and the DMV could not talk about Bentley's case because it is an open investigation.