Due to changed financial circumstances I advertised my leased auto, a Mercedes Benz R500, on several auto lease assumption web sites with a view to unburdening myself of large monthly lease payments.
Most leasing companies will let your car be leased to a third party who has met credit approval with them. However, if anything goes wrong they may come back to you. But that's not the worst that can happen. Read on.
I had received no offers from the "legitimate" sites but I was approached by Joshua David Burns of Premier Auto Brokers of (?) Orange County, California via email. He purported to guarantee monthly payments to the lease company, Mercedes Benz Finance, through the remainder of the lease while finding a safe home for the auto with a third party customer. Insurance and registration would also be covered.
Mr. Burns and I exchanged contractual documents and I handed him the keys to my car at my home in December 2007. And then - silence.
After leaving several email and voicemail messages for Mr. Burns he called me on January 6th, 2008, assuring me that all was well and that he was making the payment for January that day (the due day for the January lease payment),
Mr. Burns never made the payment. My attempts to contact him since January 6th have been frustrated; he has not replied to my voice messages or my emails.
The vehicle is equipped with Tele Aid service that has the capability to trace the vehicle if stolen. The service said the Tele Aid has been disconnected.
Last week I retained a special kind of private investigator known as a "skip tracer" who knows Joshua Burns and says this is his third or fourth re-named company (that's why I didn't put Premier Auto Brokers in the heading). The investigator says he has duped HUNDREDS of people out of their cars, leaving them with a choice between bankruptcy and making continuing payments on a car they will never see again.
In 2005 the Colorado Highway Patrol and the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles jailed a person who had been running a similar scam. Charges: Unlawful subleasing of a vehicle - violation of California Penal Code no. 571; Embezzlement - violation of California Penal Code no. 504.
I complained to the CHP; they said it was a local matter. So I called several Orange County precincts; they said that since the "crime" started in Colorado, it was a Colorado matter.
So I registered a complaint in Colorado; they said Burns had broken no criminal laws in Colorado, and that since I signed a contract it was a civil "breach of contract" matter and I should find a lawyer. I checked Colorado law, and they were right. But California is different.
So I am stuck with what prededent has already established is a crime, but no police department with the slightest interest in prosecuting it.
It is apparently in this "gray area" of the law - is it civil, is it criminal - in which Burns and many like him are grubbing around ruining people's lives for their own profit.
So I called my insurance company to claim the loss; a clause in my policy lets them out of paying against this kind of "conversion", as they call it.
This is what you call being sh-- out of luck.
I did not go into this with eyes closed; I investigated Burns and Premier Auto with BBB, background checkers and so on. I found nothing. I am publicising my own stupidity in the hope that someone will be spared as a result of reading it.
If you see a silver R500 in Southern California and it seems to be driven by an incongruous type, check the VIN and call me.
Vehicle VIN: (((ROR redacted)))
Colorado registration: 582MZR
Model: Mercedes Benz R500.
U.S.A. STOP! ..before you think about using the Better Business Bureau (BBB)... CLICK HERE to see how other consumers were victimized by the BBB's false or misleading information. Don't be fooled! It has been reported, when there are thousands of complaints and other investigations underway by authorities, the BBB has no choice but to finally give an UNsatisfactory rating to a BBB member business that is paying the BBB big membership fees every year. When a business is reported that is NOT a BBB member, BBB files WILL more likely show an UNsatisfactory rating, then reportedly shake down that company to become a member of the BBB. One positive thing about the BBB is, either way, if a business has an unsatisfactory rating with the BBB, you can be sure, the business is bad. But what about all those BBB member businesses that had complaints filed against them? Consumers never get to hear about them. What about the BBB advertising to the public? Is this a false and misleading perception they are giving about consumer confidence when dealing with a business? Click here to understand more of what consumers and business alike are saying about the BBB. You decide. ..Remember. The BBB membership is not earned, it's paid for!