NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. — A metro Atlanta man found out he’d been driving for months in a stolen car only when police pulled into his driveway.
The thing is, he bought the car fair and square at a local dealership.
Demetrius Howard, a recent college graduate, told Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray that he did everything right, but still ended up with police at his home, his car taken away, and out thousands of dollars.
Police body camera footage shows the moment a Newton County sheriff’s deputy pulled into Howard’s driveway.
“The car you’re driving there. Where did you get that car?” the deputy asked Howard on the video.
“I bought it at Evolution Cars,” Howard said.
“You got all your paperwork?” the deputy asked.
“Yes, sir,” Howard said.
“That car is stolen out of Ohio,” the deputy told Howard.
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“Honestly, I got scared when he said that because then it was like, does he think I stole it?” Howard told Gray.
He had purchased this Audi A6 seven months earlier from Evolution Cars in Conyers.
“I‘ve been paying my payments since I’ve had the car,” Howard said.
“It’s not got anything to do with you, you’re not in trouble, I promise you,” the deputy told Howard on the body camera video.
By this point, Howard’s mother showed up.
“I’m sure this was just a misunderstanding that showing the paperwork would solve it,” his mother said.
“So, you were in possession of the title of this vehicle?” the deputy asked.
“Yes,” Howard’s mother said. “I showed the police officer the title. I showed him the date of purchase.”
“You all are clean as a whistle. The only thing that’s hurting you is I am going to have to take it from you,” the deputy said.
“I just didn’t even know how to process what they were saying,” Howard’s mother said.
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A tow truck came and took the car away.
Police say it was reported stolen in March 2022 from a car dealership in Ohio before Howard ever purchased it in May.
But it never showed up as stolen at the dealer or the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
“It is not kicking in the system as stolen, but the vehicle is reported stolen,” the deputy said.
“You were driving around in a stolen vehicle for months?” Gray asked Howard.
“For months, Yes sir,” Howard said.
“It’s scary because had he been on the streets or somewhere else, he would have automatically been the person that, you know, stole the car,” Howard’s mother said.
The problem for Howard was neither the car dealership nor the finance company would do anything about it.
They say Evolution Cars repeatedly refused to give his money back.
“It wasn’t their problem. That’s what they say. They’re like, ‘I guess you should get a lawyer,’” Howard’s mother said.
“This company, right here, it’s going to have to give you all your money back. Every dime,” the deputy told Howard.
Even the sheriff’s deputy thought Evolution Cars should have to make this right, so we went to ask them.
“You walked off with all the money, the customer is the one with all the problems?” Gray asked Evolution Cars manager Luis Diaz.
“I understand how you portray it that way, I see what you’re trying to say,” Diaz said.
Diaz told Gray that the car dealership did what the law requires.
“We did a deal. We did due diligence with the state of Georgia, what they require from us to verify the vehicle is not stolen,” Diaz said. “We have to go through our own processes and procedures within the state guidelines.”
“The state’s not going to say you can’t give a customer their money back?” Gray asked Diaz.
“Again, you are trying to portray it for me to have an answer on a question that you want to hear,” Diaz said.
It’s a question that matters an awful lot to Howard, a new college graduate, carless for his daily work commute from Newton County into Atlanta for months now. He continues to get threatening letters from the finance company.
“The last one I got was last month, basically saying that I still owe monthly payments and saying that if I don’t pay it, the car is basically up for repossession, which I don’t have the car, but it’s still reported to my credit as if I do,” Howard said.
“We are being treated like we’re the ones who stole the car,” Howard’s mother said.
It’s the finance company, Wells Fargo, who has finally stepped forward to make this right.
Howard does not have the money back yet but has come to an agreement with Wells Fargo where they say they will pay him back and get the hit to his credit fixed.
Wells Fargo sent Gray a statement, saying:
“We were disappointed to hear about this unfortunate situation and are pleased to have been able to work with our customer on a resolution to make them financially whole in this matter.”
So, is the dealership financially responsible for any of this?
Late last week, Howard’s mother told Gray they took Evolution to court and a judge ruled they had to pay them nearly $4,500.
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