DMV investigates used-car dealer |

DMV investigates used-car dealer

Christina Proctor

Baker Automotive may be facing allegations of failing to transfer titles on used car purchases, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Maureen Rule, a special investigator with the DMV, confirmed Thursday that there is an ongoing investigation into the South Shore car dealership’s business practices.

“We found that there were maybe 10 or 12 cars that he has not delivered title on,” Rule said. “We were given assurances that the titles would be forthcoming, but we did not see any evidence that he had the financial means to do so. By law, dealers are required to provide titles within a certain amount of time. Some of these cars were purchased during the summer.”

Rule said the case has been submitted to the DMV’s legal offices for possible administrative action.

Owner Dick Baker was not available for comment this week, but a management source at the business, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that there had been a problem with at least five used cars that were bought at an auction in the Bay Area.

“There is nothing here that is not going to be paid. That is absolute. Most of it I believe will be taken care of within 48 hours. We have sent a man down to collect the disputed titles,” he said.

South Lake Tahoe resident Linda Trischler is one of Baker’s disgruntled customers. She and her husband were excited when they found a 1995 Explorer in Baker’s lot. Trischler’s excitement turned sour as the wait for her title lengthened.

“We were really happy that we found the car we were looking for right on the hill,” Trischler said. “It was exactly what we wanted, low mileage, and just immaculate. We bought the car in September. I assumed we would receive the title within a month. Two months went by and my husband stopped in. We just got the run around.”

In the meantime Trischler said, she was contacted by Barbara Zweig, a DMV staff attorney, and asked to testify. She learned that the DMV could reconstruct her title, but Trischler would have to pay the registration fees again. Trischler said she then filed a small claims suit against Baker to recoup her losses. This week, after several insistent visits and a threatened lawsuit, Trischler said Baker Automotive called to assure her the title would be in her hands soon. Even if Baker comes through, Trischler said the experience has turned her off to shopping for cars close to home.

“I will never do it again, never,” she said.

Zweig said it could be two to three weeks before the case is actually filed and Baker is sent notice.

“There would be a hearing and an administrative law judge would decide what, if any, punishment would be appropriate,” Zweig explained. “The director of the DMV makes the final decision to adopt the judge’s determination or not.”

Zweig said Baker’s license could be put on probation, suspended or revoked. Baker has the right to appeal any decision to the state supreme court.

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