Tveten’s death leaves customers left with problems |

Tveten’s death leaves customers left with problems

Christina Proctor

Businessman Joe Tveten’s death left expensive loose ends for some South Shore residents.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, 19 people who dealt with Tveten Auto Sales have called to complain. Rory Santos, a DMV senior special investigator, said he officially closed the Meyers auto business this month.

“It was closed because of his death and because the only surviving member of the corporation doesn’t want to deal with it anymore,” he said.

The consumer complaints fall into three categories: people who gave the wholesale auto dealer money up front and never received a vehicle; people who bought cars off his lot and never received the title; and people whose cars were sold by Tveten on consignment and never received payment. Santos estimated the consumer money loss, so far, at around $250,000.

“The majority of these people are looking for large sums of money. I can’t guarantee the return of any money. That would be a civil matter,” Santos explained. “I can act as a mediator and work on getting people who haven’t received a title to their vehicle their title. It’s very sad. Some of these people invested every dime they had, and now they don’t have a car. And they don’t have the money to go out and buy another car. They’ve all been victimized.”

Santos said Tveten’s business problems began before his death, with complaints filed in September 1998.

“The complaints dissipated over the next three months, and when I talked with him in December, he assured me he had absolutely no problems,” he said. “He did, in most cases, pay the DMV registration fees due.”

Tony Harmon purchased his vehicle from Tveten’s lot about four days before Tveten’s death. Harmon placed a down payment, and even paid extra for a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty on a used Jeep Wagoneer. When he tried to contact the business a week later to find out where he should send his payments, he got no answer.

“It’s like a ghost town,” Harmon said of the auto business. “There are no vehicles. We had an agreement, but now there is no one there to honor it.”

Harmon also wonders how he’ll get the title to his purchase.

“It was in the agreement that after the car was paid off, we would receive the title. I have the car, but who are we suppose to pay? I have no clue,” he said.

Harmon said he sympathizes with the former car owners, who are holding onto titles with no cars or money to show for the sale.

“They didn’t get anything,” he said.

Santos said Tventen customers with problems should first fill out a consumer complaint form, available at the South Lake Tahoe DMV branch.

“They need to mail that complaint along with a proof of purchase,” he said.

For money recovery, Santos recommended that customers seek legal advice and consider a possible civil claim. Tveten’s family lawyer was out of town and unavailable for comment.

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