PB Pre-Owned making good on all car deals

By Lindsay Cohen email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office is now investigating car salesman who's acused of stealing deposits and writing false receipts.

Update, THU 9 AM: Deputies have launched an investigation into a local car salesman after nearly a dozen customers have come forward saying they were swindled out of thousands of dollars.

The investigation centers around a former salesman at Palm Beach Pre-Owned, a car dealership on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Customers say they paid thousands in cash to a single car salesman, only to get bogus receipts and - later - the runaround.

"He hurt people in this community that he did business with, and it's just disgusting what happened here," said Steve Lavine, who co-owns the dealership. "We trusted the guy, also. The only thing that we could do and the best thing that we could do was to really refund their money, so that they weren't victims."

Lavine believes the salesman may have taken as much as $20,000 from customers giving them bogus receipts and failing to report the sales to the dealership.

When managers realized what was going on, they fired the salesman. The company is now promising to make good on the car deals, Lavine said.

"It hurts to know that somebody you trust would stab you in the back," said Alesha Johnson, a customer who paid thousands for a car she never got. "I'm a single parent trying to maintain and trying to buy a new car, and it's hard," Johnson said.

Johnson was one of a handful of customers who was back at the store on Wednesday to file a police report. Other customers picked up their cars or got a refund.

"The economy is so bad. People don't have [any] money for people to just take from them like that," said Tanya Shepard, who was asking for her $2,000 deposit back. "It's just too hard."

The dealership says the salesman gave customers fake receipts for their cash instead of legitimate invoices. Lavine believes the salesman may have even purchased the generic receipts from an office supply store and then tried to pass them off as authentic.

A sheriff's office spokesperson says the investigation is open and ongoing.

Previously: A small, simple-looking receipt is all that Tanya Shepard has to show for her ordeal: an ordeal that now appears to parallel the experiences of nearly a dozen customers at a West Palm Beach car dealership.

"I do feel like they really just robbed me of my $2,000," Shepard said, clutching her receipt. "$2,000 is a lot of money, and how the economy is being ran, I need my money back or I want the car."

Shepard says she put money down towards the purchase of a car at Palm Beach Pre-Owned on Okeechobee Boulevard. The salesman handed her a receipt and told her to come back two days later to pick up the car.

When she returned, the same salesman told her the car needed to pass an inspection. When Shepard came back three days later to pick up her 2008 Dodge Charger, employees told her the salesman no longer worked at the store, and that her money was apparently gone.

"I really wish that next time they hire a salesman they do a background check, because people work for [their] money," Shepard said.

Dealership co-owner Stephen Lavine says when they discovered the missing money, they fired the salesman almost immediately. The dealership is now working with West Palm Beach Police and plans to press charges.

"I am going to take care of the customers so that there will be no victims, except me," Lavine said, adding that he believes the salesman took about $20,000.

Lavine also said he believed the salesman didn't give customers legitimate receipts; instead, it appears the man purchased a generic receipt book at an office supply store, and created receipts from there.

Shepard said she'll be happy with either the car, or her money back.

"I really feel humiliated and just ran down, really," Shepard said.

Fox 29 is not naming the salesman who allegedly took the money because, as of Tuesday night, he had still not been arrested or charged with a crime.