RENO, NV (KOLO) Eric and Heather Haddox have a large family, including an 18-year-old son ready for his first car. They searched online looking for the best buy using a website called AutoTempest, which has vehicles from several used car sources including CraigsList.
They like the prices and tax advantages of a private party sale and they preferred to pay cash.
"And we went online because then you can search a bigger area," adds Eric.
The vehicle they found was an electric powered 2014 Chevy Volt listed in Tracy, California. Texting back and forth they reached agreement and bought the car for $6800, later putting another $1400 into it for a needed repair. They even installed a charging unit in their garage.
Eric went to the DMV with bill of sale and signed title to register it. But as he sat there he suddenly found himself surrounded by three Reno police officers who told him to come with them.
"So I'm thinking maybe something happened to my wife or kids, but they are looking rather stern, not sympathetic."
It wasn't that. As it turns out the car was stolen from an elderly woman in Modesto who left her keys with a neighbor. Police are now looking for the neighbor's daughter's boyfriend who may have taken the car and the title.
It's not known how the private party in Tracy acquired the car and it's not certain anyone is trying to find out.
We put Eric and Heather in touch with the Modesto detective who has the case. The problem is he has a stolen car case in Modesto, the sale took place in Tracy and the man who sold it has an address in Fremont.
"He said 'What can I do for you?'" says Heather. "I said, 'Well I'd like to see someone who did this go to jail.' He said 'I can't help you.'"
Meanwhile the car was seized by Reno Police. It now sits in an impound lot off USA Parkway. Its former owner has settled with her insurance company. Someday it will likely be sold at auction.
So, to review, everyone will be compensated but the Haddox family, now out $8200, with no vehicle and apparently no hope of any restitution.
They had a signed title and bill of sale. What, Eric asks, did they miss?
"Who would think when you're going to register a car at DMV, this car may be stolen? It's not a scenario that would run through your head."
He says perhaps next time he'll ask for identification, maybe even insist the transaction take place in the presence of a notary public.
Officer Travis Warren, a spokesman for the Reno Police Department, has another suggestion for anyone buying from a private party.
"You're more than welcome to call the police department and run the VIN number or the license plate if you have it through the police department to verify if the vehicle is not stolen."
Eric says he and Heather will still likely continue to buy from private parties.
"I choose to believe most people are good and kind."
Copyright KOLO-TV 2019