Legal Question in Criminal Law in California

My friend who works at a car dealership told me about a business deal that he had connected a lot of people with.

A guy is using peoples’ names and good credit to purchase a lot of vehicles to be driven as Uber/Lyft cars with drivers who don’t own cars.

I thought it sounded clever.

My only questions to my friend at the dealership were “Is this legal?” He told me “Yes”.

And “Does he make all the car payments on time?” And he said “Yes”.

I know nothing about the car business or the Uber business, just their popularity. I trusted my car dealer friend and agreed.

I exchanged my name, very good credit and signed the paperwork for 8 cars- financed by 8 different banks.

I didn’t sign any contract or paperwork with the person running this deal.

They picked up the cars from the dealership, were to make all the car payments on time and pay all car expenses.

For using my good credit score and name I would receive a portion of the income received from the cars being driven as Uber or Lyft vehicles.

That was five months ago. I have not received one penny.

And out of 40 total car payments due on 8 cars they have made only 6 payments.

There have been two accidents for which they say insurance is covering the damage to the vehicles and they have had upwards of 13 parking tickets some of which are now 5 months delinquent with compounding late fees.

My friend sold 27 cars through his dealership this way and to the best of my understanding the same thing is happening with all of them.

I have been on the phone with them almost every day since the first late 30 days late car payment notice arrived.

They just keep saying we are going to pay it, we’re waiting for some deals to come through and we will make those payments.

They promised they wouldn’t negatively affect my credit which of course they have terribly. And since then, have said whatever’s negatively reflected on your credit we can fix it, just hang in there.

Two weeks ago I told them I can’t do this anymore- that the deal was completely misrepresented: I haven’t made one cent,

they haven’t paid the car payments, the parking tickets, they have severely damaged my credit and now the banks -of course- want to reposses their cars.

I asked them to tell me where are the cars are so I can call each bank and tell them where to pick up their cars.

They told me if you do that - if you do a “voluntary” repossession that will be the worst thing for your credit and we won’t be able to help you repair your credit.

Their suggestion is doing an “involuntary repossession” but the videos I’ve watched on YouTube by attorney say that is a terrible thing to do.

But really they want me to not have the cars repossessed at all and just keep the cars with them(!!) and have faith that it will all work out, that their deals will come in and they’ll be able to pay the cars off.

But I realize now, why would they? I have no contract with them. And they just have 8 free brand new automobiles to make money from and put in their pockets.

They have no incentive to pay the car payments tickets or me.

And they have not kept their word yet, so I would be foolish to think they would in the future.

This is a nightmare and I was foolish to trust it and involve myself.

I didn’t know enough to realize what could possibly all go wrong.

Had I known or even imagined this could happen I would never have involved myself.

I don’t know how to extricate myself at this point or get my life and good credit back without it being ruined for 7 years

Do you know if there any lawyers who might be able to help me pro bono with this?

I would very much appreciate your advice.

Thank you

Asked on 8/17/18, 1:00 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

What a surprise this happened. Yeah.

You don't get to 'extricate yourself' from this situation, at least not without great pain and loss, but you do get to try to file criminal charges against all the other crooks, and you do get to file a multi-defendant lawsuit against everybody involved.

For that you are going to need an experienced attorney. You will have to address the issue of attorney fees and risks of litigation. Pro bono is going to be a tough sell for you unless you can show a real likelihood of getting a judgment against defendants that you could actually collect a judgment from, especially when all the banks end up suing you. That's going to be a tough discussion, which depends in part upon whether any or all of the 'defendants' you will validly name stick around or even have anything to their names. If they did, or had any credit, they would have bought their own cars.

The dealership will no doubt claim they know nothing and that the situation was a fraud on them by the crooked salesman, and that they have no liability in this. That could well be a good defense, unless you can prove otherwise in court.

You also have a serious problem with each bank you financed these through, as in you facing charges of 'bank fraud' in addition to suing you for breach of contract for payment of the cars.

You probably have nothing in writing, let alone an enforceable contract, with the crooked salesman or dealership. You just took his word, right? You didn't seek advice from anyone, lawyer or otherwise, before doing this, right?

BTW, just turning the cars over to the banks does not relieve you of the payment obligation on them. Nor does involuntary repossession. Either way they are just going to wholesale auction the cars off for pennies, and sue you for the balance of the loans. You could be better off financially getting them back somehow yourself, and selling them yourself for more than the banks' auction price, to reduce your debt. Any collision damage reduces the sales value of the cars. You could consult with a good private detective if the police won't help you locate the cars, and the drivers. You can try reporting the cars stolen to police and DMV.

You also have a problem with those crashes. You didn't say who provided the insurance coverage on them, if at all. Assuming you are the registered owner, you are thus liable for any personal injury or collision damages caused by 'your' cars'. You "have no contract with" the salesman or drivers. Do you even know who they are?

Parking tickets belong to the registered owner, YOU, and could result in your drivers license being suspended if they remain unpaid, regardless of your story.

Welcome to the painful downside to falling for such scam.

Now that you have been 'educated' on extricating yourself, you would be well advised to go hire counsel to assist you in this. Just don't expect it to be free. This is going to be one massive SNAFU. Attorney fees are how an attorney makes his living.

You may have one alternative to consider. Go consult with a bankruptcy specialist, an attorney, not a cheap paperwork preparer 'mill', to see if it that makes sense now will all your pending liabilities, rather than spending money in this legal mess and then deciding to file BK later. Your credit is already ruined, BK won't make that worse.

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Answered on 8/17/18, 3:10 pm

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