CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - A KSLA News 12 investigation into a dispute over the purchase of a used car has uncovered a host of questions about rules and regulations for people selling cars online, on smartphone apps or on the side of the road.
This dispute is over a 2002 Buick Regal sold to Kellie Grimsinger of Caddo Parish from a man named Dan Cheeseman. Kellie says she found the car on the LetGo app.
"I needed transportation and I wanted to go to work," explains Kellie, who admits to being a bit impatient due to her need for a car. She had agreed to pay Cheeseman $1,800 in three payments of $600 each. But within weeks of the purchase, she wanted to call the deal off.
"I got suckered," shares an exhausted Kellie, who says she's spent weeks texting and talking to Cheeseman in an attempt to get back the two payments she had made so far in exchange for the Buick.
"I didn't have a good feeling about it from the start."
Kellie's father Raymond says he drove Kellie to meet Cheeseman a couple of times, once to first look at the car and a second time when she took it to a mechanic of Cheeseman's choosing for two repairs to be made - to a brake line and a worn-out window.
The mechanic, who didn't want to be identified, didn't hold back when he first laid eyes on the car.
"This car is junk."
He pointed out how the entire bottom of the car is rusted out, including all four brake lines, and the support for the radiator and the condenser. The metal support brackets were gone, replaced with a 2x4 piece of wood and rope.
"I said all the brake lines need to be changed," the mechanic recalls from his conversation with Cheeseman. "And he said, 'Just fix the one.'"
The frustrated mechanic says he decided right then he didn't want to do business with Cheeseman and began telling Kellie everything he could find wrong with the car. Kellie texted Cheeseman asking about the wooden board and rope. Reading from Kellie's text thread, "I'm not aware of that. I'll have to assess."
"I'm not going to take it anywhere," says Kellie, further explaining she didn't want the car to leave the mechanic's shop until she could figure out what could be fixed, if at all.
Repeated attempts to reach Cheeseman by phone eventually resulted in a return call from Cheeseman days later. Upon being questioned about the poor condition of the vehicle, Cheeseman responded by saying this was a private individual sale and purchase and it was no one else's business, including KSLA News 12's.
When asked why then had he placed a Texas temporary tag on the Buick, registered to a Performance Auto Brokers, if this was not a dealership sale, he answered by saying he did that as a favor to Kellie but refused to elaborate further.
"We strongly urge that any purchase, buying from a used car dealer or individual, try their best to get it checked out and inspected before they buy,' explains Monte Wisener of the Louisiana Used Motor Vehicle Commission. Wisener assisted us during our investigation to help us understand the difference between a dealer and an individual sale, and sales crossing state lines.
Wisener shared his thoughts on the private sale with the use of dealer temporary tags from the neighboring state of Texas.
"The paperwork shows an individual selling to an individual. The only thing that brought the dealership part into it was he allowed this person to operate on one of their Texas temp tags."
Wisener confirmed by talking to the Texas Use Motor Vehicle Commission that Cheeseman was a registered agent with Performance Auto Brokers in Farmers Branch, Texas. Despite still being actively registered with Texas officials, the location where Performance reports being located is now nothing more than an abandoned lot.
"That tag would not have been legal had it been a Texas buyer," further explains Wisener.
"There are certain tags they're allowed to issue. That tag would not have been the one he would have used."
KSLA News 12's Doug Warner tracked Cheeseman down at his home in south Shreveport. Our attempts to get him to explain why he used dealer tags on a private sale, and why we've documented his personal truck displaying different temporary Texas tags over the course of the two months of our investigation, were unsuccessful.
He answered his door, but only said, "I don't think it any of your business. It's perfectly legal", and then promptly shut the door.
After making two payments totaling $1,200, the final payment of $600 dollars was never made while Kellie and Cheeseman disputed over the condition of the car.
In a tragic and sudden development, Kellie passed away in her sleep just three days after being interviewed for this investigation. Her family says she had been battling some medical issues.
Roughly a week after Kellie's passing, the Buick was repossessed by Cheeseman.
"They just prey on people like Kellie. They knew she was desperate," says Raymond.