MARIETTA, Ga. — A woman is now out of a car after learning her recently purchased Nissan Maxima had been reported stolen.
Crystal Wilkinson said she put $5,500 down on a 2011 black Nissan Maxima from E-Z Auto Finance in Marietta on Jan. 8, 2018. It wasn’t until Feb. 16 when she went to get her tag that she learned her new car technically belonged to someone else.
“In the time that I’ve had it I’ve done things to it, gotten it detailed, gotten tires, I put tints on the windows,” Wilkinson said. “It’s my car I loved it, I absolutely loved the car.”
After calling Cobb County police, they ran the VIN number and confirmed it was stolen out of Atlanta. The vehicle was then towed and impounded.
“It’s so embarrassing,” Wilkinson said. “I was so proud of this car, everybody knew, ‘Look at Crystal’s new car.’ It was just a humiliating experience.”
Atlanta Police documents showed the Nissan was reported stolen on October 26, 2017, from the owner's home in Atlanta. Police said now that the sedan is recovered, the original owner will get the Nissan back and any transactions since the theft are void.
When asked what she should do about the money she already paid for the car, Cobb County police advised her it was a civil issue between her and the dealership.
After a few phone calls with the dealership, Wilkinson paid them a visit.
“[The owner] came out immediately, ‘We didn’t sell you a stolen car and this doesn’t have anything to do with us,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson told 11Alive the owner claimed the car was originally reported stolen on Feb. 16, after she bought it, meaning it was not his problem. He told her he got that information from the DMV.
When approached by 11Alive, Eric Welsh from the Finance Department for E-Z Auto's finance department said the dealership bought the Nissan from Manheim Auto Auction in Atlanta in December. He said the dealership did not know it was stolen at the time of purchase or when they sold it to Wilkinson.
The spokesperson said they have opened an investigation and working with Manheim to rectify the situation. He told 11Alive they are working to get Wilkinson into a demo car for the time being.
When 11Alive reached out to Manheim Auto Action about the situation. In a statement, they said:
"Manheim operates wholesale vehicle auctions that facilitate the buying and selling of used vehicles among auto dealers and commercial sellers. On the rare occasion we learn that a vehicle has been reported stolen, we refer the matter immediately to law enforcement."
On Tuesday, they issued another statement:
“We understand that this is a difficult situation for those involved, especially Crystal Wilkinson. Upon being notified, we looked into this matter and can share that at no time did Manheim take title ownership of this vehicle. As a company that operates vehicle auctions, our role is to facilitate the wholesale transaction between buyers and sellers. For additional information about the vehicle in question, we suggest you work with law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, E-Z Auto said they have never had something like this happen before.
“We’re not here to sell stolen vehicles, we’re here to run a legitimate business,” Welsh said.
A spokeswoman from the Georgia Attorney Generals' Office said according to the Fair Business Practices Act, "In the event, a consumer learns she has purchased a stolen vehicle and immediately contacts the dealership, we would expect the dealer to refund any monies paid. Any obligations to a lender or bank for the financing of the stolen vehicle should also be canceled."
Wilkinson has filed a report against the dealership with the BBB and the Secretary of State's Office. She plans on hiring an attorney to bring a civil suit against them.
The single mother of five has had to rent a car, is out thousands of dollars, and trying to figure out what to do next.