There’s a new racket in operation among some less-than-ethical auto mechanics, and it could cost you your ride, right down to the spark plugs.
A recent report on Sacramento, CA’s CBS13 exposed the increasingly common, highly illegal practice of mechanics faking liens or actually filing bogus liens against customers’ vehicles and selling them right out from under them. The story featured Daniel James, who says Sacramento’s MK Auto held his 1986 Ford Mustang for three years, calling every few months to explain that they were struggling to find a new engine for the classic car.
Finally fed up, James with the ridiculous delay, James demanded his car back. That’s when a mechanic told him that the company had filed a lien on the car three months before and sold it.
“He told me, ‘Hey, the car’s gone, you’re not gonna get it back,’” James told reporters. Unfortunately, his story is an increasingly common one. Prosecutors in Indianapolis are working to recover up more than 270 vehicles swiped by unscrupulous mechanics via Mechanics Liens Plus, a third-party company paid to file fake paperwork to enforce a mechanic’s lien on cars. Among those lost to the scheme was a 1965 Chevrolet Corvette that had been owned by the customer’s late father and for which the family had paid the mechanic 13,000 to fix.
Incredulously, many states’ Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) won’t warn auto owners, claiming it will only give more shady mechanics the idea. But law enforcement agencies in numerous states are starting to crack down on scammers.
If your vehicle has been or will be in the care of a mechanic for a lengthy period of time, make sure you know the laws governing mechanics liens. Laws vary from state to state, but in most cases, a facility can legally file a lien and sell your car if it has been left at the shop for 30-60 days and you have not paid your bill. However, before a mechanic cashes in on selling your ride, the facility is required to send a notice via certified mail to all owners and lienholders on the vehicle. It’s also required to advertise a notice of public auction in local newspapers. In an effort to keep mechanics honest, law also requires that submission of official notarized paperwork with a sworn signature that all legal conditions were met, along with a signed repair bill before a title transfer can be completed.
In James’ case however, a check with the California DMV turned up no lien filed by MK Auto — proof that the mechanics had lied to James and sold his classic ‘Stang illegally. When James took his complaint to the local media, MK Auto went into PR crisis mode, bought back James’ car and returned it with the same old engine still inside. Far more victims, however, aren’t as lucky.
If you’ve been a victim of a mechanics’ lien, post your story on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.