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Santa Maria - North County
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Tipline Investigation: Patience and Payback

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Our NewsChannel 3 Tipline investigation is proof that you can get payback with a little patience and creativity. We first told you about Bernard Newell and his trusty dog 'Flood' in February, 2019 right after he was tricked into buying a broken down 2002 Ford Explorer from a used car dealer in Lompoc.

Life is much better now for Newell. His Explorer runs like a dream and he got his money back. However, it's been a long, bumpy road to get here.

"Take me for a fool, like he did. I feel like a fool," said Newell when we interviewed him in February.

He had just purchased the Explorer from Mid-State Motors for almost $6,300. Newell scraped together a $1,000 down and made payments for three months. In the meantime, Mid-State promised to fix the transmission, but never did.

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

The truck broke down immediately and Mid-State never gave Newell a registration or title.

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

"I bought tons of cars so I knew what the process was to get it done and he didn't have any of the paperwork to show he had ownership," said Brian Flanagan.

Flanagan, Newell's son-in-law, tried to help. But when they showed up at the Mid-State car lot to confront the owners the lot was empty and the business shutdown.

"Empty! all gone. everything," said Newell with a disgusted look on his face.

Mid-State is still out of business. Flanagan knew how much it hurt Newell to be ripped off.

"He's held captive here. 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," said Flanagan.

That's when NewsChannel Three got involved. The first thing we did was contact the DMV on Newell's behalf, explained what happened and helped him get a registration and title. We also did some digging and discovered Mid-State was owned by a Santa Maria company called, 'KWA Motorsports, LLC' and Alysha Hibson. With that information, we were able to help Newell begin the process of filing a claim against the $50,000 bond KWA and Hibson had to file with the state before doing business. Months went by, and we joined Newell for some of his court dates.

"I know you want to get this over with, but now since they've postponed it, it's going to give you a chance to set this up right," said C.J. Ward to Newell after one of the continued court hearings in Santa Maria.

Sadly, Newell's broken down Explorer just sat in the driveway.

"Right now, I haven't got the money for the transmission," explained Newell outside the courtroom. So, he borrowed the money and got the Explorer running. During the court process we learned that more than a dozen people accused Mid-State Motors of ripping them off. The Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office even filed criminal charges against Hibson and two Mid-State employees including the salesman who sold Newell his Explorer.

Seven months later, a mediator awarded Newell $4,500 from Mid-State's bond. Enough money to pay for the transmission and other expenses. Newell thanked everyone who helped him.

"Everybody, everybody I dealt with, C.J. especially. It's good to have a man like him behind ya. I'm satisfied and my dog is too," said Newell.

Most people don't think about going after a dealership's bond, but it does work if you have can back up your claim and be patient. Mid-state's owner lost the entire $50,000 bond to pay back the victims who in many cases only received a fraction of what they lost. As for the criminal charges, Alysha Marie Hibson agreed to a plea deal and pled guilty to three misdemeanor counts of hiring an unlicensed salesperson and she was ordered to pay restitution. Karl Wolfgang Bischoff, the salesman who sold Newell the Explorer,  pled guilty to five misdemeanors including theft and selling a vehicle without a license. The third Mid-State employee, Daniel Merlin Davis, never showed up in court to face felony grand theft charges. A judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

If you have a problem and need help call our NewsChannel Three Tipline at 805-882-3903

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C.J. Ward

C.J. Ward is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and the station’s lead investigative reporter.