Imagine buying a car only to find out later that it was reported stolen. This is what happened to a man from Maryland who bought a car at a DC government auction.
He said he spent weeks trying to get his money back with no success – until News4 started asking questions.
When a Nissan Altima went up for sale last year at a DC government auction, a man from Maryland bought it, never imagining how the situation would unfold and creating a headache for the others.
He later learned that the car had been reported stolen by Hertz in Baltimore, according to county police records.
“Not only was it stressful financially, but also emotionally. I have a small business. I have a family here,” said the buyer, who asked News4 not to use his name, citing health issues. privacy.
The buyer runs a car resale business called Timonium Imports. After buying the car at a DC government auction, he sold it to an auction house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They sold it to a dealer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That’s where Michigan resident William McClure bought it.
“Somebody dropped the ball somewhere,” he said.
When McClure tried to register the car, a police officer asked to meet him, he said.
“He said, ‘Yeah, that car was reported stolen. I have to take it. And I said, ‘Yeah, because I don’t want any part of that car,'” McClure recalled with a laugh.
“If the cop hadn’t bought my story and I had the documentation, he could have arrested me,” he added.
So how did this happen? Part of the problem may have been the timing.
A Hertz employee told Baltimore County police the car was missing from a lot on Oct. 6, 2020, according to a police report. The DC Department of Public Works towed the car on March 3, 2021, they told News4. But Hertz didn’t report the car stolen until March 16, 13 days after DPW picked it up.
According to the police report, a Hertz employee told police, “Hertz likes to do its own investigation and if it doesn’t find anything, it reports it to the police.”
The car rental company declined to comment on News4.
The man who bought the car at auction in DC said he had to pay off the auction house in Pennsylvania.
“I have to pay the people I sold the car to, and they were so nice that they didn’t press charges for selling a stolen car,” he said.
DPW told News4 the department followed “all available protocols” and checked two stolen car databases when the car was towed. Nothing came, they said. The department said the car was not listed as stolen at the time of the auction and it sent two letters to Hertz in Baltimore letting them know the car was in their possession. Hertz never responded, DPW said.
The man who bought the car said he tried for weeks to get his money back from DPW with no response until News4 started asking about the vehicle.
“If it wasn’t for you, this thing would have sat in the office and not moved forward,” the man said.
He said he is now in the process of getting a refund and hopes no one else has to go through the same process.
If you’re buying a used car, Consumer Reports advises you to research it on VehicleHistory.gov. The website has databases that can tell you if a car has had security issues or been reported stolen.