Kenneth Sanderson (not his real name) had recently turned 18. He looked around and found a used pickup truck which was for sale by a man in Fort Meyers, Florida.
Sanderson learned about the pickup through a friend, R.J. Keane (not his real name). Keane had recently installed a sound system in the truck for the owner, Jerrod Jones (not his real name).
Sanderson met up with his friend on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Together they went to see the pickup. At that time, Jones offered to sell the pickup for $5,200.
Sanderson arranged to borrow the money the next day. After getting the purchase funds, Sanderson and his friend returned to Fort Meyers. Sanderson paid the agreed purchase price in cash to Jones. Together, all three went to the Lee County tax collector Office to transfer title. For some unspecified reason, title could not be transferred that Friday, March 20. Jones let Sanderson keep the pickup over the weekend.
The following Monday, Sanderson, Keane and Karen McGrath (not her real name) met with the seller again to get title transferred. To accomplish this, the seller suggested they go to the Glades County Sheriff’s Office. At that time, Sanderson learned that Jones had reported the pickup as stolen. It would take 48 hours to “clear” the stolen vehicle entry according to Jones.
Sanderson received no receipt for his $5,200 payment and no verification of the reason for the delay in transferring title. It never occurred to Sanderson that he was being played for a fool.
When Jones failed to deliver good title after the 48-hour period expired, Sanderson demanded a refund of the purchase price. They agreed to meet and do the exchange at about 11:00 P.M. on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Unfortunately, Sanderson was arrested en route to the meeting on a trumped up charge of grand theft auto.
Jones filed a criminal complaint with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office alleging his pickup had been stolen. His complaint failed to acknowledge that he had already agreed to sell the pickup, that he had accepted full payment, and that only the title remained to be transferred.
Sanderson retained Jeffrey H. Garland to represent him on the criminal charge. The investigation located and preserved text messages between Sanderson and Jones.
The text messages provided written verification that Sanderson had paid for the pickup; and that Sanderson was arrested en route to return the pickup, because the seller failed to deliver good title.
Based upon these circumstances, the State Attorney’s Office in Glades County dropped all charges.
All vehicle purchases need to be documented in writing. There should be a title transfer at the time of payment. The buyer should verify before paying for the vehicle that it is not stolen and that there are no liens.
In this case, Sanderson saved his text messages from the seller. These texts established the dates and times of meetings. They proved that Sanderson actually paid for the pickup, and that the seller voluntarily relinquished possession of the pickup. They also proved that Sanderson was meeting with the seller on March 26 to return the pickup and to receive a refund of the purchase price.