TAMPA, Fla. — After a car consignment deal involving a Tampa car dealer went south, the customer says she's out $45,000 and has no place to turn.
Susan Cote has the title but no car and no money. Investigator Jackie Callaway started asking questions after hearing her story.
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Cote told ABC Action News a friend referred her to Mirabella Motors in Tampa, where she signed a consignment deal. The one-page contract stipulates that Mirabella Motors would pay Cote $45,000 after selling the car.
Cote said the dealer told her in June that the car was sold and made an appointment for her to come from her home in Orlando to meet him in Tampa.
On June 29, Cote arrived in Tampa with the title in hand. But she said Mirabella Motors was unwilling to hand over the money right away.
"They said give us the title because the bank won't release the funds to us until we have proof of title," she said.
But Cote didn't feel comfortable leaving the car's title without the agreed-upon $45,000 payment.
She said the owner Tony Mirabella gave her the run around all summer.
In August, she filed a complaint with the DMV.
ABC Action News obtained the DMV's report. The state investigation verified the car was sold in June.
The dealer told the DMV it would cut Cote a check but claims she hired an attorney who demanded a wire transfer and additional fees.
The DMV cited Mirabella Motors for three violations over the consignment deal. They included failure to disclose a proper odometer statement, failure to have proper proof of ownership and signed contracts that were not completed.
The agency's findings did nothing to prompt the dealer to pay Cote.
Between October and December, Taking Action Reporter Jackie Callaway reached out to Tony Mirabella and Mirabella Motors more than a dozen times via email, text, and phone.
On December 9, Mirabella responded in an email, stating: "All I need is a letter from her attorney sent to me saying that [her] attorney is no longer representing her, and this can be resolved."
ABC Action News found Cote's attorney emailed Mirabella Motors in September, offering to accept a wire transfer for $45,000 even in exchange for the title. Cote is still waiting for payment.