SALT LAKE CITY — Just because you buy a car outright and have your new title in hand doesn't necessarily mean that car is yours.
A South Weber man is out a car — and the car he traded for it — following a mix-up with a title. The man's ordeal is prompting Davis County Sheriff’s investigators to caution everybody who takes part in private car sales and trades.
“I’ve got a lot of anger going on right now,” Schmidt said Monday. “Waiting for phone calls and knowing I can’t do anything about this is making me pretty mad.”
Schmidt regularly trades cars but maintains he has never seen anything like this.
He said he traded his early 90s Mercedes sedan last month to another man for his limited edition 1997 Mustang GT.
Sunday evening, trouble surfaced as the Mustang disappeared from Schmidt’s property.
“I jumped out of the car and went inside and was like, 'where’s the Mustang!’” he recalled. “The keys were inside and everything.”
Though Schmidt initially believed the car had been stolen, he soon learned it had been repossessed.
Schmidt said he has since discovered from investigators that the old title to the Mustang should never have gone to the man he met for the trade — it was intended for the lender, but somehow wound up going to the wrong place.
Apparently taking advantage of the mistake, Schmidt said detectives believe the blue Mustang’s owner quickly dealt the car — title in hand — when he wasn’t supposed to, and made off with Schmidt’s Mercedes.
The Mercedes is listed as stolen and has yet to be found.
Schmidt said in the month since the deal, he had a new title in his name — but the car was nonetheless taken away from him. He now fears he may wind up without either car, though sheriff’s investigators and state officials were still delving further into the situation.
"If you have a strange feeling or they're acting suspiciously, maybe take a step back and look at all the facts and the details before you press forward."
Schmidt said he believes he did everything right, but he has been second-guessing the original deal, saying the owner of the Mustang was acting suspiciously at the time.
“I mean he couldn’t stop moving to save his life,” he recalled. “His girlfriend was all over the place. I instantly knew and I should have thrown up a red flag right there, you know, not to do it. But he gave me a clean and clear title.”
Though what happened to Schmidt is believed to be extremely rare, sheriff’s deputies are cautioning all others who buy, sell and trade to private parties.
“If you have a strange feeling or they’re acting suspiciously, maybe take a step back and look at all the facts and the details before you press forward,” Sgt. Susan Poulsen said.
Utah State Tax Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts could supply no further information about Schmidt’s case late Monday, but he, too, suggested people take as many precautionary measures as possible when making auto transactions with private parties.
Roberts suggested exchanging and checking information days ahead of a transaction with a potential buyer or seller, including vehicle identification numbers, license plate numbers, the make, model and year of the car or cars involved, and the name or names under which the vehicles are supposed to be registered.
“You just have to check, check and double-check,” Roberts said.
If anybody suspects anything is wrong, Roberts said they should contact the state Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division, and they can also go to the website mved.utah.gov.