EL CAJON (KGTV) - A San Diego woman said she paid thousands for an SUV she picked up from an East County used car dealership, but she still can't get behind the wheel. Chika Starks said she currently does not have the vehicle because the business shut down.
She moved to San Diego with her toddler shortly after her husband died.
“I’m a single mother,” Starks told Team 10. “Having a car was for my convenience. To help my life, my son’s life.”
She and her mother-in-law found a 2007 Jeep Commander in January on Craigslist, sold by Carbox, Incorporated on El Cajon Boulevard.
“The price was right,” Starks said.
It cost her $6,500. Starks said there was an unusual way to process the payment--an employee ran the credit card through a La Jolla restaurant, Olive and Basil. She said the employee told her it was a family business.
Starks told Team 10 there were problems shortly after she paid for it. First, she said the key fob was not working correctly. Then, with the car driven about 40 miles, there were more issues. She said a mechanic told her the catalytic converter needed to be replaced, along with the vehicle’s computer. On top of that, she was told the smog check failed. Starks also said the title was never transferred to her name.
When Team 10 checked the car’s registration in September, it was still registered to Carbox, Inc. Starks blames the owner for broken promises.
“It’s stressful. A lot of money,” Starks said.
According to the DMV, a used car dealer has 30 days to transfer title to the new owner. The penalty is $5 if it is not transferred. A DMV spokesman said it is an additional $25 if the total application does not clear within a certain time. The DMV confirmed there is an open investigation into Carbox.
“This place is not really honest to us,” Starks told Team 10.
There is now a new car dealership in the old Carbox location. The man who runs the new business told Team 10 he worked for Carbox’s former owner, Peyman Abdipoorzahandeh. Abdipoorzahandeh's name is listed on the Secretary of State filing for Carbox.
Team 10 contacted Abdipoorzahandeh in mid-October. The former owner would not grant an in-person interview until mid-November, but told Team 10 over the phone that he is working with a DMV investigator and that this is “not a normal situation.” He did not explain the title transfer delay of nearly 10 months. He said he is not doing anything illegal and said he is trying to help Starks get her money back.
That is what Starks hopes for.
“I don’t want other people to go through what I went through,” she said.
Hal Rosner with Rosner, Barry & Babbitt specializes in auto fraud. He says consumers should run not only a Carfax report, but also a report through AutoCheck and the National Motor Vehicle Title Transfer Information System (NMVTIS) to check a vehicle's history.
If a dealership goes bankrupt, Rosner said there are options for consumers. Rosner said every car lot is required to have a $50,000 bond. You can contact the DMV and get the bond information to make a claim. If the dealer assisted in obtaining your financing, Rosner said the loan company or bank is required to return your money through what's called the "Holder Rule."
Rosner added that consumers can also contact the victim's restitution fund if you are dealing with a closed dealership.