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  1. #1

    Default What Happens if Your Trade-In to a Dealership Turns Out to be Stolen

    My question involves vehicle registration or title in the state of: California.

    So I was approached by my attorney who said he had a client that was looking to sell a high end BMW to pay legal fees, So after I did my diligence on the BMW, confirmed clear title, I agreed to purchase the vehicle for value. My attorney produced the signed power of attorney from the owner, and we signed a bill of sale, release of liability etc. etc. Because the car was new (5k miles) I would have have to file for a replacement title b/c the original owner still had not received title from DMV.

    So I file all paperwork, pay the use tax, and receive temp registration......around the same time I came across my dream car (Aston martin DB9) at a local dealership. I met with the dealership owner and we came to an agreement for a trade in, plus cash consideration paid to me. So i signed all docs, was promised they would handle DMV and not to worry. I left in the DB9 with a check for the negotiated amount.

    4 months later I get a call from CHP saying the BMW is stolen, and I need to come in for statement. So I did, and I brought all my supporting docs......they grilled me for a few hours, yelling and fist pounding that I had something to do with the theft of the car......I'd finally had enough and asked if I was free to go, and they reluctantly advised that I was and I left. I followed up with the CHP investigator who advised that the DA was not pursuing me for any wrong doing, but then I get a call from the dealer....who still had not registered the DB9 as promised, stating that they own the aston martin......and because the police impounded the BMW, they want it back.

    My intuition tells me that I'm a bona fide purchaser for value, and that the dealer is in breach of contract for not registering vehicle in my name. So now what.... Sue for breach of contract? Any ideas on identifying the appropriate cause of action(s) or available remedies would be incredibly helpful.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: After Trade In, Chp Tells Dealer Car is Stolen.do I Have Rights

    I'm curious, what model BMW was it?

    Did you tell the police about your lawyer's involvement? Has your lawyer been questioned? When was the car reported stolen in relation to your purchasing it?

    You are free to sue the dealer alleging a breach of contract. Their defense will likely be that you did not legally own the vehicle you traded in.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: After Trade In, Chp Tells Dealer Car is Stolen.do I Have Rights

    i believe you have a problem with your claim as there were no facially valid title documents that you relied upon as representation of the sellers ownership. Therefor you basically depended on the word of the seller that he was the true owner.

    And since your attorney should be about shoulder deep in crap right about now, where is he and what has he told you about the matter?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: After Trade In, Chp Tells Dealer Car is Stolen.do I Have Rights

    Quote Quoting astondbniner
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    My intuition tells me that I'm a bona fide purchaser for value, and that the dealer is in breach of contract for not registering vehicle in my name. So now what.... Sue for breach of contract? Any ideas on identifying the appropriate cause of action(s) or available remedies would be incredibly helpful.
    As to the Aston Martin car, the details of the contract you have with the dealer matter and I’ve not read the contract. But here’s the problem with your theory: you are also likely in breach of contract because you failed to deliver part of your consideration: a BMW to which you had good title. If indeed the car was stolen then you never had title to the car and had no power to transfer it to the dealer. In the deal you likely represented that you had good title to the car and since that evidently turned out not to be true you end up in breach of contract.

    If the car was stolen, then your remedy for your loss here is to sue the guy who sold you the stolen car and perhaps your attorney who acted as the guy’s agent in the sale. (IMO the attorney was foolish to have sold the car of one client to another from the outset as that raises very likely conflict of interest problems on top of everything else.)

    I suggest you consult an attorney, and not the one that was the agent for the car sale, for advice here. The situation you are in is a mess and I rather think it will not be easy to get it resolved in a manner that makes you whole.

  5. #5

    Default Re: After Trade In, Chp Tells Dealer Car is Stolen.do I Have Rights

    Quote Quoting free9man
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    I'm curious, what model BMW was it?

    Did you tell the police about your lawyer's involvement? Has your lawyer been questioned? When was the car reported stolen in relation to your purchasing it?

    You are free to sue the dealer alleging a breach of contract. Their defense will likely be that you did not legally own the vehicle you traded in.
    Yes, I showed the police all of the docs, the bill of sale, power of attorney, and app for duplicate title, and it was a good 2 months before the car was impounded but I had still not received title in the mail....I guess I forgot to mention that I did receive title to the BMW (shortly after it was seized) and tried to sign it over to the dealer who threatened me and basically told me to use it for TP....he did not want title to a car he didnt have possession of. Long story short, Ive got the title to the BMW which is still with the police I think.....As for the attorney, to say he's neck deep in trouble is....well, hes F%@$#ed. The BMW was allegedly acquired via identify theft or at least that the story I got from the police.

    To clarify, on my representation to the dealer about title to the BMW....I was completely transparent about just purchasing the vehicle, and that I did not have title...the car was registered in my name temporarily....If I were to file claim on the dealers surety bond, would that expose me to any risk given the circumstances as I've attempted to explain them? Thanks a lot!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    As to the Aston Martin car, the details of the contract you have with the dealer matter and I’ve not read the contract. But here’s the problem with your theory: you are also likely in breach of contract because you failed to deliver part of your consideration: a BMW to which you had good title. If indeed the car was stolen then you never had title to the car and had no power to transfer it to the dealer. In the deal you likely represented that you had good title to the car and since that evidently turned out not to be true you end up in breach of contract.

    If the car was stolen, then your remedy for your loss here is to sue the guy who sold you the stolen car and perhaps your attorney who acted as the guy’s agent in the sale. (IMO the attorney was foolish to have sold the car of one client to another from the outset as that raises very likely conflict of interest problems on top of everything else.)

    I suggest you consult an attorney, and not the one that was the agent for the car sale, for advice here. The situation you are in is a mess and I rather think it will not be easy to get it resolved in a manner that makes you whole.
    Thank you for your reply as I am clearly way out of my league on these matters, I did finally get the title in the mail.....but by that time the police had the car impounded and my attempt to sign over the title fell on seriously pissed off ears...understandably. The attorney has this and whole heap of other charges pending. To my suprise the guy I pay to keep me out of situations like this, might well have been the catalyst for this entire mess.

    If there are no criminal charges being filed against me, then why are the police still telling me that I have to return the Aston Martin....wouldnt that be decided in a civil court? Do I have to give it back? Can the dealership report it stolen even though I have a sales contract, and the temp reg I received when I got the car?

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    Quote Quoting jk
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    i believe you have a problem with your claim as there were no facially valid title documents that you relied upon as representation of the sellers ownership. Therefor you basically depended on the word of the seller that he was the true owner.

    And since your attorney should be about shoulder deep in crap right about now, where is he and what has he told you about the matter?
    I did do diligence in advance, and the registered owner was the same person on the Power of attorney.....VIN check came back as 1 owner vehicle....it looked like everything was on the up and up.....plus it was coming from my attorney, whom I assumed would be the last person to expose me to this kind of risk. When we went to the DMV the day I bought the BMW, I was able to register the car in my name and the attorney submitted the release of liability.....all that was left was the title showing up on the mail. Thanks again for the reply, the help is greatly appreciated.

    Oh and as for the ATTY: Hes in more crap than I ever imagined.....not just from this but a slew of other misdemeanors and felonies from what I can tell.I hav not been able to reach him since I made him aware of the meeting I had with CHP.....what a mess indeed!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: After Trade In, Chp Tells Dealer Car is Stolen.do I Have Rights

    It's time to find a different attorney. One that is in no way associated with your prior attorney. Attempting to contact the original attorney would not be a good idea at this time. You do not want it to look like you are in collusion with the attorney and continued contact could cause some to believe that is why the continued contact. You need to distance yourself from that attorney as much as possible. In fact it would be a good idea that if he should attempt to contact you he is referred to your new attorney as your only means of communication with you.

    To your statements about your due diligence; nothing will overcome the fact there was no title which was used to convey title to you. You depended on the word of the sellers agent that he was the named party on the title but even worse; you apparently don't have his signature on anything given your attorney's involvement acting as the sellers agent.

    I surely hope you paid full market value for the car as so far that is the only (last) argument you have that there was no suspicious issues in purchasing the car. No title (how long before you purchased the vehicle was it purchased from the dealer); never meeting the seller; no documents signed by the seller (other than a POA you believe was granted by the cars owner); the fact that you applied for a new title rather than waiting for the title to be issued to the seller who would then sign off on it and deliver it to you (that alone is a huge problem for you) are all indications of possible issues in purchasing the car that can be construed you should have been on notice this deal was not kosher.

    And the one thing you couldn't know since the title had not issued to the seller; was there a lien on the title. Another possibility with a high priced car that is common that not having the title didn't allow you to know; was it a leased car.

    Personally I think you are on the losing end here, at least regarding the Aston Martin deal. You have to get the BMW issue resolved before you can argue your deal for the Aston is enforceable so you need to go down and lay claim to the BMW so you can deliver it and the title to the dealer. That means the legal argument is yours to make. As it stands, you either fight for the BMW directly or fight for it once the dealer sues you for the value of the Aston PLUS the cash they gave you. Just arguing you were a bonifide purchaser does not prove you were a bonifide purchaser and since you have to use that argument you need to do it against the claimant for the BMW and as it stands the dealer is not going to be that party. You can go ahead and sue the dealer but their simple defense will be that you could not convey title to them because you did not actually hold good title as proven by the fact the police impounded the BMW. You then have to prove otherwise.

  7. #7

    Default Re: After Trade In, Chp Tells Dealer Car is Stolen.do I Have Rights

    Quote Quoting jk
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    It's time to find a different attorney. One that is in no way associated with your prior attorney. Attempting to contact the original attorney would not be a good idea at this time. You do not want it to look like you are in collusion with the attorney and continued contact could cause some to believe that is why the continued contact. You need to distance yourself from that attorney as much as possible. In fact it would be a good idea that if he should attempt to contact you he is referred to your new attorney as your only means of communication with you.

    To your statements about your due diligence; nothing will overcome the fact there was no title which was used to convey title to you. You depended on the word of the sellers agent that he was the named party on the title but even worse; you apparently don't have his signature on anything given your attorney's involvement acting as the sellers agent.

    I surely hope you paid full market value for the car as so far that is the only (last) argument you have that there was no suspicious issues in purchasing the car. No title (how long before you purchased the vehicle was it purchased from the dealer); never meeting the seller; no documents signed by the seller (other than a POA you believe was granted by the cars owner); the fact that you applied for a new title rather than waiting for the title to be issued to the seller who would then sign off on it and deliver it to you (that alone is a huge problem for you) are all indications of possible issues in purchasing the car that can be construed you should have been on notice this deal was not kosher.

    And the one thing you couldn't know since the title had not issued to the seller; was there a lien on the title. Another possibility with a high priced car that is common that not having the title didn't allow you to know; was it a leased car.

    Personally I think you are on the losing end here, at least regarding the Aston Martin deal. You have to get the BMW issue resolved before you can argue your deal for the Aston is enforceable so you need to go down and lay claim to the BMW so you can deliver it and the title to the dealer. That means the legal argument is yours to make. As it stands, you either fight for the BMW directly or fight for it once the dealer sues you for the value of the Aston PLUS the cash they gave you. Just arguing you were a bonifide purchaser does not prove you were a bonifide purchaser and since you have to use that argument you need to do it against the claimant for the BMW and as it stands the dealer is not going to be that party. You can go ahead and sue the dealer but their simple defense will be that you could not convey title to them because you did not actually hold good title as proven by the fact the police impounded the BMW. You then have to prove otherwise.
    Sound advice....thank you for the insight. When you say lay claim to the BMW.....what are you suggesting? Im not sure who to make the case to....Police? Courts?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: After Trade In, Chp Tells Dealer Car is Stolen.do I Have Rights

    The police are not going to release it to you without a courts order although you might ask the cops first. If rebuffed it's off to court you go but I surely wouldn't hold my breath that you convince a court you have a right to the car.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: After Trade In, Chp Tells Dealer Car is Stolen.do I Have Rights

    Quote Quoting jk
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    Just arguing you were a bonifide purchaser does not prove you were a bonifide purchaser and since you have to use that argument you need to do it against the claimant for the BMW and as it stands the dealer is not going to be that party.
    If the BMW was actually stolen then the OP won’t get the BMW back by arguing that he was a bona fide purchaser. The bona fide purchaser argument may work when there is an undisclosed or late filed lien on the property to avoid that lien. The problem is that when the property is stolen the thief or anyone who has taken possession of the property after the theft does not have good title to the car and thus cannot convey good title to anyone else. Doesn’t matter that a buyer from a thief might be a bona fide buyer had the seller held good title; he cannot get title to the vehicle because the seller had no title to give. The person who owns the car (i.e. the person holding title to it before the theft) is the one entitled to reclaim the car. Simply put, a thief cannot create good title in stolen goods by selling those goods to some innocent buyer who doesn’t know the goods were stolen.

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