FAIRVIEW, Ore. – Donny Clark thought he had found the perfect car for his family: a 1989 four-door Toyota Corolla with low miles and in good shape.
Clark bought the vehicle from a used car dealer on 82nd Avenue in Portland and had been driving it for about a month when, last Friday, after dropping his daughter off at school, he found himself confronted by police officers with guns drawn telling him to get down on the ground.
They said he was driving a stolen car.
“I was so mad,” Clark said. “I was irate. What if my kid was in my car with me at that point? What if that was 20 minutes later and [I] had picked my daughter up and she had a gun pointed on her?”
Clark said he was humiliated by the incident and has the paperwork showing he made a legitimate transaction in buying the car from a dealer.
The problem was, police said the dealership, Vital Auto, also didn’t know the car was stolen when they sold it to Clark.
"I would never intend to put anyone… through something like that,” Vital Auto dealership owner Vitaly Kachun told KATU News, “and I feel sorry, of course.”
Kachun said the people he bought the car from had the appropriate paperwork and the car was not flagged as stolen by the DMV.
He said he’s out about $1,000 and feels like a victim as well but plans to refund Clark all his money. “We’ll take care of him. We always do. He’s not going to lose a penny,” Kachun said.
An elderly woman is the rightful owner of the car, according to Portland police. The car was apparently stolen while the woman was in the hospital and the theft was not immediately noticed.
Kachun said he’s been selling cars for 16 years and this incident is the first time he has sold a stolen car. Clark said he also wants Vital Auto to reimburse his girlfriend for the cab fare she spent to get to work.
Prospective car buyers are reminded that buying a car from a private party increases the chances a car could be stolen. Buyers should:
- Check for matching title and registration information
- Be wary of sellers with no fixed address (such as a PO Box)
- Ask for past proof of insurance and financing
- Check for a secure, untampered VIN plate in the front window
- Be suspicious of any deal that seems just too good to be true – because it probably is.