Saturday, July 6, 2013
It was a brutally cold winter in Forest Hill, CA @ 5 AM, sitting parked down a hill out of sight from other vehicles and trying to stay warm. What was I thinking? Freezing temperatures, my hands were numb. Forest Hill isn't exactly close to a warm Starbucks. While I am sitting waiting for a certain vehicle to come down the hill, I will catch you up on the story.
A few years back there used to be vehicle broker companies (a bright idea turned out not so bright) that would broker your extra vehicle. Let's say you have a vehicle you no longer need, you can't sell it for what you owe on it and you no longer want to make the payments. Well, call up Joe's Vehicle Broker Company and he'll hook you up with someone who needs a vehicle, then this person takes your vehicle and gets their own insurance on it. This person then sends you the payment every month. Contracts were signed and the brokers were suppose to get back the vehicle if the person did not make their payments. .
In my client's case, she was receiving the payments every month for almost a year, then all of a sudden in the spring of 2007, the payments started being late and eventually no payments. My client, Catherine, did speak to Debbie stating she would be late for October but would make a double payment in November.
Debbie also stated she'd lost her job so she and her twins had to move in with her parents. Debbie was warned that Catherine would have to take the vehicle back if some money was not received soon.
No payments came in November, December or January and Debbie's cell phone was now disconnected. We had no physical address for her.
So now it's time to just take the vehicle back but where is it?
Catherine thought she'd go see the vehicle brokers in Citrus Heights, CA, and get their help. She pulls up to the office and finds the brokers business closed up, office empty, no one around, just gone. The businesses around this area the had no information on where they went. Now she has no broker or protection.
Law Enforcement does not get involved in matters like this, the pink slip is still in Catherine's name so my client can take back the vehicle at any time. The vehicle isn't technically stolen by Debbie as the 911 supervisor says, so they aren't going to assist us.
Well, the coppers didn't get the message from the 911 operator, as you will later read.
The trick first of all was finding out where Debbie lived or actually where her father lived. Catherine had kept track of all the phone numbers Debbie had previously called her from. With this information, I located the father's home, and prior to me freezing my butt off, I had driven by the property and saw the vehicle I wanted in the driveway.
There were problems with this scenario even though I had a key to the vehicle. The property was off the main road about 1/4 mile, no neighbors and dogs, lots of dogs, and let's not forget the sign that says, "Trespassers will be shot". I 'd say my chances of survival by walking up the driveway to steal the vehicle was 100 to 0 in favor of dying so I liked plan B better.
Also, on this particular job I had to have the client with me as she is the registered owner so if I get stopped by the cops after taking the vehicle, she'll be there to verify ownership.
I decided I would wait until Debbie left early for work and follow her. Then when she arrives at work and goes inside, I will use my key and take the vehicle. I had no idea where she worked but I would soon find out. She wouldn't know her vehicle was missing until at least lunchtime.
To my surprise, @ 7:30 AM, when I saw Debbie come down the road and stop at a stop sign, she had two children in car seats. This is going complicate the situation a bit, but would deal with that as this played out.
Debbie makes a left at the stop sign and starts going down Folsom-Auburn Boulevard. This winding 2-lane road goes all the way to the town of Folsom. She could of gotten on the freeway, gone west, then east on Hwy 50 to Folsom but she decided to take the back way. We followed her for a few miles down the back road and all of a sudden she pulls over. Maybe she was dropping off the kids at the babysitter but as it turned out, she had to do something with the kids in the backseat. I was shocked that she had not realized I pulled over too. She never even noticed, which I guess is plausible since she had all her attention on something or someone in the back seat.
Debbie then keeps driving for several miles towards Folsom. There were several towns she could of worked in but she passed them all up and entered the town of Folsom. I followed her through neighborhoods and then to a business district, thinking maybe she has a day care center where she works - not the case, in the middle of the business district there is a day care center, a name that belongs to a huge chain of day care centers, and she pulls into it.
Now it's 8:45 AM, not only does she pull into a parking spot right near the front door, she gets out, collects the kids and their stuff, then walks into the center. She leaves the vehicle running with all of her keys in the ignition, leaves her purse, the car seats and everything else!
Since she left the vehicle running, she wasn't going to be very long so I had to jump out of my vehicle and start walking kind of fast towards the vehicle door keeping my eyes peeled on the day care front door in case she came out. I did not want a confrontation, no reason to
get into it with her, didn't want anyone calling the coppers, I just wanted the vehicle.
I made it to the driver side door, hopped in using the keys that were in the ignition, put it in reverse, backed out and drove off quickly. I had to hide the vehicle because like I said earlier, sometimes the cops shoot first and ask questions later, and even though I warned them over and over that I was taking the vehicle, I could not trust them not be trigger happy. From other stories I have written, you can see how cops can be jumpy.
I drove the vehicle to a location nearby where it couldn't be found for quite a while. My client followed me driving my vehicle. When we parked, we then cleaned out the entire vehicle (van). It was really a mess, children's stuff such as clothes, blankets, diapers, food wrappers, all in disarray. We packed all the valuable things in a bag throwing out all the garbage. We put Debbie's purse, car keys and her personal items in a separate bag. When I was packing her personal stuff in her purse, her work ID fell out, so I now knew where she worked. I put that back in her purse loading up everything else including the children's car seats and put it all in my vehicle. This took us about an hour or so.
We left the van parked in it's safe place and around 10:30 AM, headed back to the day care center to return all of Debbie's belongings. When we got close, I could hear sirens, not one police siren but several. With so many police vehicles and sirens I knew right away that Debbie not only called 911 to report "her vehicle" stolen but acted like a victim and mentioned her children, and that her car seats and purse had been stolen. All you have to do is mentioned the word children and a lot of law enforcement get involved.
When I got around the corner of the day care center, I saw all the police cars, two parked in front of the day care center and others driving around. I thought it best to sit at the Starbucks next door and call the 911 operators. There were even people who came out of Starbucks to see what the heck was going on. But I remained quiet and didn't engage in any conversations. One person asked me what was going on and I replied "I have no idea". After we were alone outside, we called 911.
My client explained to the operator that we had called in yesterday to the Sheriff's Department of two counties and police stations for two different towns in the Sacramento area. It was re-iterated what time we called them yesterday, also giving them the vehicle license plate number, who the registered owner is, and that we were taking the vehicle back today. After some minutes on hold, waiting, then suddenly we heard all the sirens go off and ta few minutes later he police left the day care center. I guess the 911 dispatch supervisor found our notes from yesterday and called off the posse. When the operator came back on the line she stated they have closed this matter and will do nothing further.
We waited a while to calm our nerves, actually got something to eat, then around 12 PM drove my vehicle next door to the day care center. We unloaded the car seats and Debbie's box of personal items, went inside, telling the day care staff we were dropping off her stuff.
I thought we were going to walk in and the staff would immediately call the police - again.
What happened next was hilarious!
One of the day care staff sees that we have the car seats and a box, then says, "OH, you must be her mother!"
I said, "No".
She said, "Oh, you are the friend she called. Debbie left with her father but thank you so much for bringing an extra set of car seats and stuff for the children!". (She didn't see the purse in the box).
I said, "Sure!" and left.
I guess they didn't figure whoever stole "her vehicle" would be brave enough to return the car seats - so to them, I must have been Debbie's mother. Too funny.
After driving back to the place where we hid my clients vehicle (van), she then drove it home back to Sacramento.
The next thing is even more hilarious!!!
When Catherine arrived home she found out that Debbie and her father had been there at the house - looking for her! Unbelievable, they want the van back!. That was the message left at the door and on the message machine there were several calls from Debbie.
I am sure the police told Debbie that Catherine legally took her vehicle back and they could not help her, so she was really pissed off.
Catherine spoke to Debbie on the phone trying to drive some sense into her, it's my car-you didn't pay-I took my car back etc. But before Debbie slammed the phone down, she said, "I'm going to sue you!"
At this point Catherine ignored her and her threat, forgetting about this chick. A few weeks go by and a process server shows up at Catherine's door.
Debbie is suing Catherine in small claims court! She wants "her vehicle" back!
Of all my years of doing this work, this has got to be the stupidest chick I have ever encountered. I bet she thinks a Judge is going to feel sorry for her. To her it's worth a try. She's desperate but at the same time - really???
Now, Debbie got herself in a worse situation because I am going to submit my bill to the court for $800 and get the Judge to make her pay it.
The court hearing was attended by my client, Catherine and myself. She had all her paperwork, registration, contract with Debbie and even my bill for repossessing the car. We scripted our version so that Catherine would explain the situation in a few words. She did and then it was Debbie's turn to speak to the Judge. Just as I thought, she went on and on about how she was a victim, how we took back "her vehicle" and all Catherine should of done was "call her". She stated she needed this vehicle to drive to work and daycare, that she can't get a vehicle loan due to her financial issues and still says she wants Catherine to give the vehicle back!
The Judge asked Catherine for information on her actual phone bills listing all the phone calls made to Debbie, with dates and times during the 6 or so months she was trying to get Debbie to return the vehicle. When the Judge queried Debbie on this, it was obvious to him that Debbie had plenty of time to take care of this matter and didn't.
Catherine won this case and weeks later I was shocked when I received a check for $800 from Debbie's parents. We never heard from Debbie again.
Moral of the story: When faced with any legal situation or one such as Debbie, look at the law or hire a lawyer or do your own research. Do not succumb to your emotions and let them run your actions - you will lose. Face it head-on and resolved it fast.