A casual sales pitch or something more sinister? The KATU Problem Solvers have been on the trail of a local man spotted leaving his phone number on car windshields around the Portland area.
The note reads: "I really like your car. If you ever want to sell it, please give me a call." The message is followed by a name – Norman – and a Portland-area phone number.
Yet it’s the sheer volume of notes that make this man’s seemingly casual interest in all these cars anything but – he's left similar notes on hundreds of cars and more of his would-be customers who’ve found them are contacting KATU every day.
"It's creepy," says 'Ted,' who found one of the notes on his daughter's car in Tigard. Their friends received the message as well – four times.
The family was one of several identified for this story that had their cars approached on multiple occasions and at multiple locations.
"You leave a note at their house, at their job, at the grocery store – that's pretty weird," Ted said (who asked that we not use his last name to protect his family's privacy). "This isn't normal what this guy is doing."
Ted's worry: who left the note? A stalker? A car prowler?
KATU On Your Side Problem Solver Kerry Tomlinson went undercover to find out the real story. Kerry called Norman, posing as a potential customer and telling him that she, too, found one of his notes on her car.
Norman told Kerry he once owned a car just like hers, right down to the color. And he said he was hoping, by chance, she'll sell it. Kerry then asked him how he found her car in the first place. First he said he works for FedEx and saw the vehicle on his route. But later in conversation he said he was actually riding with a friend who works for FedEx. Then he said he was simply at a friend’s house and spotted the vehicle.
Ted had a similar experience when he called Norman: "His story is changing each time you revisit it," Ted explained.
Kerry called again – posing as a different person. Norman gave her the same pitch and agreed to meet in person in the parking lot of a local restaurant to look at the car. KATU had a hidden Problem Solver camera rolling when Norman pulled up and began spinning his usual story to our undercover producer.
"He said UPS instead of FedEx, but everything else was the same," relates KATU news producer Kelly Hatmaker. "He seemed please to find it, like it was his favorite car."
But Norman was not pleased when Kerry approached him with a Problem Solver news crew in tow. He ducked our questions about his behavior and tried to hide his face from our camera, then quickly drove off.
But we already know who he is: Norman John Verbruggen the Third, from West Linn.
KATU News wanted to give Norman another chance to explain himself – calling him on the phone after the parking lot encounter. During our conversation with Norman, he claimed to be an independent car scout for dealerships who gets paid a couple hundred bucks per car he finds.
So why the lie? Why say he has a sentimental reason for buying the cars?
"It's not a bad lie," Norman said, explaining that people don't like to deal with auto dealerships, making it hard for him to close a sale. He added that he is on the "uppity-up" and "legal-beagle."
But the Oregon DMV says Norman is breaking the law. Spokesperson Shelley Snow says dealers are licensed to protect the consumer. That ensures that dealers all are bonded and have insurance, are properly trained to handle the paperwork involved in a car sale so you get the right title. Licensed dealers also have to have a place of business to make sales.
"That's so you know who to go back to," says Snow. "So it's not some fly-by-night scam you can't find and can't locate and you're just stuck."
Update: After our story aired, Norman J. Verbruggen III applied for and received a dealer license through the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles, under the business name Willamette Motors.
The next step for Norman could be an investigation by the DMV for flipping cars without a license. The punishment can be serious: $5,000 for the first car, $2,500 for each car flipped after that.
Get more information or file a complaint: