On March 25, 2002 my beloved Toyota Tercel bit the dust (it caught fire) so I went down to Sam Dell to see about purchasing a newer vehicle. My credit isn't the greatest, so I wasn't expecting to get a new vehicle. I sat down with a salesman named James Pridgen, and he told me that with $500-$1000 down I could get myself into a 1998 Neon or a Malibu. I said fine, and I borrowed the money from my mom. I filled out the credit application, and he told me that he would get back to me. He got back to me and told me that I was approved for the Malibu, and we made an appointment to meet the next day. (keep this in mind right now...my fiance had no idea that I was purchasing a vehicle just yet, he thought that I was still looking around--I wanted to surprise him).
Anyway, I went down to the dealership the next day with a guy friend of mine. We waited 2.5 hours to meet with James, and when we finally got to talk to him, he told me that my loan was denied, but he would try for the Neon and get back to me.
Later that evening, I get a call from him saying that I was approved for the Neon and to come down to the dealership the next morning. During the call he also asked me for the names and addresses of people that might be interested in purchasing a vehicle from Sam Dell, so I gave him the info for my fiance, Jon who was also looking around at the time, but I made sure to let James know that Jon lived about 200 miles away so he probably wouldn't get a car from them.
I arrived the next morning ready to put the money down and drive away with my Neon. But James told me that somehow I had gotten approved for a brand new 2002 Chrysler Sebring. I didn't understand and asked him to explain. He told me that the car I was getting was a demo car that they were selling at the same price as the Neon ($5400). Me being kind of naive thought it was a great deal. He then asked me to sign over the title to my beloved, burned up Tercel so they could junk it. At that time, I also signed a credit application for the sebring with the $5400 price tag on the vehicle...NO Co-signer no nothing. After he takes the paperwork from me, he comes back saying that I need to put $2000 down. I didn't have it at the time and would have to call my mom to have her western union the money to me. I told him that I could get the money for him the next day. So we finish up the paperwork, and I drive the sebring off the lot that day with dealer plates.
When I was taking the car home, I noticed that there were only 18 miles on the odometer, which I thought was funny because he had previously told me that the car was a demo and had been driven a bit. But I didn't think much of it at the time.
The next day I go to the dealership and give him the rest of the $2000 downpayment and I thought it was a done deal. He gave me my plates and told me that I would get my permanent registration in the mail. Seemed all good to me.
About one month later, I get a bill from Chrysler Financial in the mail. But it had Jon's name on it. The bill actually came addressed to Jonathan West c/o Natasha Scott, and the bill was for my first month's payment. This baffled my mind and on top of that, it showed that my payoff amount was $15,000!!! I immediately called Chrysler and told them that there had to be some kind of mistake because I was the only one to sign the credit app (Jon was never involved in the process of the purchase!) and that the quoted price of the vehicle was $5400, and less the downpayment, the payoff should be something like $4700 (including interest and other fees).
The woman at Chrysler told me that they had a contract signed by not only me, but Jonathan, and that Jonathan was listed as the buyer, and me as the co-buyer. She also told me that they had a copy of his driver license. I told them that he was never involved in the purchase and I had my copy of the contract to prove it. I asked them to send me a copy of what they had so I could get to the bottom of all of this. I was told that wasn't necessary as I obviously had this contract if I had the car.
I tried contacting the dealership and James trying to figure out what was going on, but everytime I called I was told that someone would get back to me, but no one ever did. And after much haggling with Chrysler Financial, I finally got copies of the contract. It turned out that the signatures on the contract looked nothing like our signatures and the driver license wasn't even Jon's. The face was not his, the name was spelled wrong, but the address was correct.
Because of the error with the contract, I refused to make the payments and ended up getting the car reposessed.
I finally contacted the Attorney General's office, and an investigation was launched. It turned out that James used the information that I gave him about Jon to get a copy of his credit report (I'm not sure about all of the specifics regarding that) and because his credit is better than mine, used his information to get me in a more expensive car...which equals more comission for him. The driver license copy is actually his brother's with some modification. I also found out that I'm not the only one that this has happened to, but I'm one of the few to do something about it.
So now, a year later, criminal charges are being filed, and we are working on a civil suit against James Pridgen, as well as a class action suit against the dealership. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy a vehicle from these people.
Albany, New York