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NewsChannel 3 Investigates: Lompoc car dealer skips town, leaves buyers hanging

nc3 investigates newschannel 3 tipline investigation

LOMPOC - Our latest story is about a man, his dog and a broken down truck. Sounds like a country song but, sadly it's really happening to Bernard Newell. He felt he was ripped off, so he called our Tipline for help.

Our reporter CJ Ward met up with Newell and his dog named "Flood." Newell said they go everywhere together.

"I like explorers. I'm a Ford man," Newell said with a laugh.

Newell wrecked his old Explorer last year.

In May, he found another one at Mid-State Motorsports Used Car Lot in Lompoc. The transmission needed some work, but Newell said the salesman promised to have that fixed.

So, Newell put $1,000 dollars down, scraped up every penny he could and made payments over the next three months for a total of $6,277.91

"Take me for a fool, like he did. I feel like a fool," Newell muttered.

Newell said Mid-State delivered the Explorer to his house.  He said it was really dirty and it didn't have any registration. When he tried to drive it, the transmission died. To add insult to injury, they never gave Newell the pink slip.

"They said it was all going to be in the mail. Yea where? I've been waiting. I ain't got nothin," Newell said.

"I bought tons of cars so I knew what the process was to get it done," said Brian Flanagan, Newell's son-in-law. "And he didn't have any of the paperwork to show he had ownership."

Flanagan travels a lot on business, but he's tried to help out whenever he can.

"It would be best if we could just talk to the people that own the dealership and say, 'Hey, give us the paperwork we need because Grandpa Bernie needs to do what he needs to do. That's his freedom you know,'" Flanagan said.

When Newell and Flood drove to Mid-State's car lot in Lompoc, they found an empty lot with pennant flags whipping in the wind. And the phone was disconnected.

Newell said they contacted the DMA, Triple-A -- anyone they could think of, but no one helped. So, they called our Tipline.

Ward and Chief Videographer Herb Tuyay stopped by the lot and called the asphalt company putting new blacktop down in hopes that someone could lead them to the owner. But nothing.

Ward did more digging and discovered a Santa Maria company called K-W-A Motorsports, LLC and it's owner Alysha Hibson ran Mid-State, but they were gone and their phone numbers were disconnected.

"Very frustrating," Newell said. "I'm 76 now and I'm not getting any younger naturally and neither is my dog."

"He's held captive here," Flanagan said. "He can't travel, he can't do the things he loves. He loves to take Flood up for a ride in the hills and sit and watch the deer and do stuff with his dog. Dog has to stay here."

Ward contacted DMV officials and explained what happened to Newell. They jumped in and helped him get a pink slip to prove the truck is his and get it registered.

"I got the pink slip and the registration and tags for it. So I feel good about that," Newell said.

But, he still can't drive it.

That's when we suggested Newell file a claim against the $50,000 dollar bond the owners of K-W-A Motorsports had to post with the state before they could legally open the used car lot.

Every car dealer must post a bond.

Ward has learned that at least ten people have filed claims against Midstate's bond. He is in the process now of researching that and will let viewers know what happens.

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C.J. Ward

C.J. Ward is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3 and the station’s lead investigative reporter. To learn more about C.J., click here


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