CBS 19 Investigates: Used Car Scams

Most of us buy a car, drive off and never think twice about whether we really own it. And if you're selling a car it's easy to believe you're done once you've got the money.

But unfortunately, a lot of times it's just not that simple. Back in February we met Christine Pinkerton, who contacted us about her car-buying experience. She wasn't happy about it.

"We were running around looking for cars. We spotted that car and we went and talked to the man," she said, referring to the man we would later come to know as Marcus L. Geter.

For months the car had been undriveable--legally, that is. Pinkerton bought it in September of 2012 from Geter.

"And he's got a very very smart smart smart mouth," she said.

Back then he was doing business on Front Street in Tyler.

"You won't ever catch him there," she said at the time. "Just like I never caught him there. I paid quite a lump sum on the car, down on it. He never gave me any paperwork. Nothing."

$1,800 down and $150 a month for quite a while. Pinkerton was waiting on the title.

"And every time I asked him about it he would say 'well, I have the paperwork to it,' but it never showed up," she said.

The registration expired and without a title she couldn't renew it. That was when she learned the car wasn't hers.

"[The county employee said] 'I hate to disappoint you, but this car is still in David Arroyo's name,'" Pinkerton said.

She assumed it was the David Arroyo who pushed Tyler into the national spotlight with 2005's courthouse shooting. But we started digging and the paper trail took us to Van Zandt County.

That part of the story began in the parking lot of a Mexican market on Tyler's west loop. A completely different David Arroyo came into town to shop and left with an offer on his car.

"He seemed like a good guy to us because he was like 'I'm a preacher. My nephew's in need of a car,'" Arroyo's son Josue said in July.

The Arroyos said Geter was a smooth talker who said all the right things.

"[He said] 'I'm a preacher at a church in Longview. I go to church. I'm a preacher there,'" Josue said. "Well my dad's a preacher too."

They were convinced, and agreed to meet at a gas station at Highway 110 and I-20.

"He was like 'I'm interested. Can I buy it?' My dad said 'yeah, it's $1,000 for it,'" Josue said. "He was like 'okay but I don't have the $1,000 with me right now, so can I just give you $500 right now and give you the other $500 next week?"

They let Geter take the car and they said they never saw the other $500. But they had insurance. The Arroyos still had the title to the car they sold Geter as leverage--nearly a year after they said Geter stopped paying.

"You can't just put two or three cars on a corner and call yourself a dealer," Smith County Motor Vehicle Supervisor Cathy Black said. "There's requirements you have to go by."

Black said stories like this one are common.

"There's all kinds of different scenarios," she said, adding that when you're buying from someone posing as a dealer--which Pinkerton believed Geter was--the law is clear.

"They should be able to show you a title that's been signed over to the dealership," Black said. "If not, I wouldn't buy it from them because legally they should have that title in their possession to sell you that vehicle."

Geter is not a licensed car dealer.

"They've been around forever," Firestation Auto Owner Lance Brown said. "They just learn different little schemes."

Brown is a licensed dealer. He said Pinkerton's first warning sign would have been the license plates still on the car.

"There is a red flag there," Brown said. "If the plates are still on it and they're claiming to be a dealer then I would be questioning why the dealer tags aren't on it."

Even in a private sale, Brown said license plates should be removed. You should check the title to make sure the car wasn't salvaged. Get a CarFax or another automotive history check. And go with the seller to the county motor vehicle office to transfer the title on the spot.

"The person who's name is [in the area on the top of the back side of a title], it's been signed over to, they're not the owner of the vehicle," Black said. "The only owner of the vehicle is the one on the front of the title."

Before long we found more people willing to come forward about their dealings with Geter.

A Tyler woman sold him a limousine but said he never paid a dime once he got his hands on it. She got so fed up she went to his car lot in the dead of night and repossessed it herself.

Then there was the list of small claims law suits. Geter never showed up to court and each victim won by default.

So we went looking for him at his new place on Palace Avenue. A car wash--where, during multiple visits, we never witnessed any cars getting washed.

Upon approaching the front of the all-glass building with a camera, he locked the door. As long as we waited, he never did come outside. Shortly after we left, he walked out and then disappeared again.

Within days a Justice of the Peace kicked him out of that building for non-payment of rent.

We called, we went by his house, we sent two certified letters, all with no response.

"You don't do people like that," Pinkerton said. You don't."

"For him to be doing that and he's saying he's a preacher, you know, helping out church and stuff, that's really bad," Josue said. "He shouldn't have done that to a lady especially."

Just a few hours prior to the publication and airing of this story, Geter reached out to CBS 19. An interview covering his response to the allegations is under negotiation.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment