Esperanza Carbajal thought she was done with the white four-door sedan she leased for two years, then returned to the dealership.
That is, until she got a $490 red light ticket in the mail. Her first reaction was panic.
"I'm worried about it because someone is using the car in my name," said the 66-year old retiree from National City.
Carbajal showed Team 10 a document that showed her car was returned to the dealership on January 11. The ticket was dated February 11 for a red light that was run in the Los Angeles County city of Cerritos, more than 100 miles from Carbajal's home.
“I never go to Los Angeles, no, no, no," said the senior citizen, shaking her head from side to side.
Carbajal called her daughter, Lucy Taylor. Taylor, a 10News viewer, called Team 10.
“Hopefully, it is a bad mistake," said Taylor. "Hopefully they forgot to submit the paperwork to take my parents off of the lease, but accordingly, they’re still on the lease and they don’t have the car in their possession.”
Team 10 checked with the California Department of Motor Vehicles February 29. The car was still registered in Carbajal's name.
Over the next several days, Team 10 learned the car, which was owned by a financial leasing company, was sold to a dealership in Cerritos. It was sold February 5, but somewhere along the line, the registration change was never made.
A spokesperson for the financial company suggested the DMV moves slowly. A spokesman for the DMV told Team 10 new registrations are posted within three days.
The day after Team 10 began asking questions about Carbajal's car, the registration was changed.
Neither the DMV, the two dealerships involved nor the financial company admitted to dropping the ball, but the financial company has now promised to take care of the ticket, saving the Carbajals a huge hassle and a lot of money.
A DMV spokesman told Team 10 there is a way to protect yourself from this happening; whether you return a leased car, sell your car, or simply transfer the title. The DMV has a form called Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. Filling out the form tells the DMV you are no longer the registered owner. The form must be filled out within five days of a vehicle changing hands. It becomes official instantly once filed, and it can be done online.
Taylor said her mother is relieved that the paperwork mess has been sorted out.