One woman helpless to fix the problemBy Kim Holland • KRQE
ALBUQUERQUE -- Do you really know where your vehicle ends up when you donate it to a charity? One Albuquerque woman found out the hard way when the car and title ended up in the hands of a career criminal.
Cathy Hartman had a gold 1996 Ford Taurus that her dad bought. It was passed down to her son. It was his first car. Needless to say, she was a bit sad to see it go. But it was not running well, and she thought the best way to get rid of the car was to donate it.
She found Kars4Kids online, which was willing to take it.
"There were not a lot of organizations that wouldn't take the vehicle until it was running," Hartman said.
Kars4Kids is a non-profit organization that has been around for about a decade. Hartman felt comfortable with the charity.
"They donate [to] at-risk use youth," said Hartman. "It seemed to be a very reliable, reputable charitable organization."
The same day Hartman contacted Kars4Kids, a tow company with U-Pull and Pay, a sub-contractor for Kars4Kids, came to haul away the car. Hartman said the transfer was easy.
"I signed the title over to him," said Hartman. "He said that they would sign the title once they sold the vehicle."
She got a receipt from Kars4Kids for her donation, and that was the last she thought about the car for a while. But in April - five months after she donated the car - she got a letter from an insurance company saying the car was involved in the accident. It said her dad was the driver. Hartman said that was impossible.
"My father's been dead for ten years," said Hartman.
It turns out, the title was not transferred.
"I couldn't believe it," said Hartman. "I couldn't believe the title hadn't been transferred over to anybody."
Hartman's car didn't just end up in anybody's hands. The man involved in that crash in February was Kevin Garner, 43. He's a career criminal who has been arrested at least 126 times. He's been busted for everything from assault on a police officer,kidnapping, child abuse and peddling drugs. Police said he got his hands on Hartman's car somehow.
Hartman called U-Pull and Pay to find out how this happened and talked to an employee there.
"She told me the vehicle has been sold," said Hartman. "The person that sold the vehicle doesn't work [there] anymore. [They had] no paperwork and there's not bill of sale. And she said the person who bought the vehicle didn't want a bill of sale. I knew there was something illegal going on."
Hartman notified Kars4Kids about the problem and didn't get any answers until KRQE News 13 tried to contact them. A spokesperson for Kars4Kids said a thief, working for U-Pull and Pay, sold the car without the company's knowledge.
"The reason there's no bill of sale [is] the vehicle never really went through U-Pull and Pay's standard selling procedures," said Clifford Meth with Kars4Kids.
News 13 has learned that police and deputies have looked into dozens of complaints over the years at U-Pull and Pay on South Broadway for selling stolen cars, stolen parts and for taking cars without titles. The complaints have decreased since the company has changed ownership. Detectives said they still keep an eye on the business, but it is a logistical nightmare to inspect the estimated 5,000 vehicles on its lot. KRQE News 13 made six attempts to talk to U-Pull and Pay, but no one would return phone calls.
U-Pull and Pay and its former employee may be to blame in Hartman's case, but she said the Motor Vehicle Division is making the problem worse by not allowing her to get her name off the title.
"I could do nothing; they told me I could do nothing at this point because I didn't own the title any longer," Hartman said.
MVD director Michael Sandoval confirmed that statement and said there are no plans to change that policy. But he recommends, like Hartman did, to notify the MVD when you sign over a title so that you're relinquished of any liability.
Because of this, Hartman is relying on a person arrested 126 times to change the title. No one knows where the car is or who is driving it currently. Hartman is worried her or her dead father's name could be dragged though the mud again.
"[I'm] very frustrated that, as a victim and technically I'm a victim of a crime and so is my father - and he's been dead for ten years - I don't know what else has been used with his name," said Hartman. "Identity theft?"
Kars4Kids is a subsidiary of Oorah and another Ooorah offshoot, Joy For Youth. The 'at risk' kids Kars4Kids helps are Jewish kids who are not yet fully Orthodox. Kars4Kids subsidizes haredi kiruv summer camp and haredi yeshiva.
But most donors do not know this. They think Kars4Kids helps kids of all religions.
Oorah has been sued by at least two states because of this deceptive advertising. Oorah settled both suits rather than have their misleading and probably illegal tactics exposed in court.