GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Andrea Gilbert said she needed reliable transportation for her and her toddler, so she said she turned to the increasingly popular Facebook Marketplace.
"I found one that I liked, and I actually went to go click on it and the person who was selling it was a friend of a friend," she explained.
That acquaintance is John Meyers. According to the Secretary of State's office, he's not a licensed mechanic. That was unbeknownst to Gilbert, who said Meyers offered to sweeten the deal by installing a new engine. She said the the 2011 Chevy Cruze has 240,000 miles on it.
"I had him download Cash App February 28 (and) sent him $1,000 over that. And the next day when I was back in town, I was going to give him another $2,000 over that," Gilbert said.
In all, Gilbert said she paid John Meyers $3,900 for a car she was promised by mid-March. Text messages between the two show her frustration with his excuses, vagueness and alleged runaround.
"He was having issues ordering the part, but he had made it seem to me that he already had the parts ordered. So it's just like I'm going in this continuous circle of just, ya know, excuse after excuse after excuse after excuse," she said.
Gilbert said, "That's a lot of money for me just to be put out. I'm a single mom taking care of (my son) and something's gotta give."
Meyers did give her the title. However, his name isn't on it.
According to the Secretary of State, generally the seller, whether it's an individual or a business, is supposed to register it in their own name once they take possession.
Selling a vehicle without your name on the title is known as 'title-jumping'. It's illegal.
So Gilbert's not only left without her car and her money but also without a legal document showing she's the rightful owner.
"At this point, I want a solution. I bought the car. So I would like the car, but if I can't have the car I want my money back," she expressed.
So she contacted the FOX 17 Problem Solvers for help. The crew stopped by Meyers' business in Wyoming. No one was there. A call to his business number gets you a message that states the mailbox is full.
Before the FOX 17 crew could knock on the door at his home, a woman pulled into the driveway and identified herself as a friend of Meyers. The Problem Solvers explained why we were there. She went inside.
The FOX 17 crew waited several hours, but Meyers never came outside. During that wait, Meyers texted Gilbert. He typed, "Your car will be outside, I'm done".
When Meyers' friend came out to her car to retrieve something, the FOX 17 crew got her attention one more time.
We asked, "What's going on? What explanation has he given you?"
She replied, "Honestly, I don't know much about it. So I can't really say."
FOX 17 left contact information with her for Meyers to reach out. He still hasn't reached out.
As Gilbert's car supposedly sits at his shop and he sits at home, she's brought to tears by the hassle he's caused her and her family with his apparent indifference.
"It's just even more hurtful to be treated that way by someone who I do call a friend," Gilbert said.
After a full 24 hours, Gilbert said Meyers didn't deliver on his latest promise to have the car ready.
As a result of making the Secretary of State's office aware of the title issue, the state department is now interested in investigating. We'll keep you updated.
If you plan to purchase a vehicle from a private seller, the SOS suggests you:
- Complete the vehicle sale at a police station or Secretary of State office to make it easy to have the vehicle title verified as authentic. Ask the seller to accompany you for the title transfer. If the seller seems uncomfortable, offers excuses or refuses to go, step away from the deal.
- Arrange the sale, preferably during business hours, in a well-lit location with surveillance cameras if the sale cannot be conducted at a police station or at a Secretary of State office. Avoid transactions held in parking lots of closed or vacant businesses. Many scams are staged in less populated areas on a Friday night or the weekend when businesses, such as banks and insurance companies, are closed.
- Check the seller's identification to verify that he or she is the owner of the vehicle. All owners listed on the front of the title must sign off as the sellers to transfer the title.
More tips from the SOS can be found here.