I-Team investigation: Car dealer fined

A-1 Autoplex, Baton Rouge
A-1 Autoplex, Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Nearly 10 months is how long one couple says it took them to get their vehicle's title from a local used car dealership, A-1 Autoplex, after the 9News I-Team got involved.
August 29, 2011 is when Brandy Roberts said she bought a 2006 Dodge Charger from A-1 Autoplex on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge.

Three days later, Roberts called Damien Bowling, one of the owners at A-1, asking about her car's title.  She told the I-Team that Bowling told her it would be 20 days.  So in the meantime, he gave her a temporary tag.  When it expired, Roberts went back to A1.  

"He didn't have the title," said Roberts.

With no title and an expired temporary tag, Roberts couldn't legally drive the car so Bowling offered to resell it. That too, didn't work out. Come February, six months after buying the car, Roberts went asking for her title again.

"He always says come back next week or come back tomorrow or come back," said Roberts.

Come June, four more months with no title and the car still parked in her driveway,  Roberts called the I-Team looking for help.  June 15th, Roberts and the I-Team went to A-1 to ask Bowling for the title.

When the I-Team followed Roberts inside A-1, we were told to leave. So we waited outside till Roberts and her boyfriend came out.

"Today, he just told us to get out of his office and he don't have the title," said Roberts.

Less than two hours later, Bowling showed up at WAFB asking us not to run the story saying the delay on the title was not his fault.

"I don't want to be seen on the news as a dealer that don't give out titles," said Bowling. "The title for this young lady's car is at Crescent Bank and Trust."

Then he called the bank on speaker phone. While the bank officer had Bowling on hold, he told us Crescent Bank and Trust kept putting him off and had yet to mail him the title. But when the representative from the bank came back on the phone, the story changed.

"We made every effort to try to track you down and we never could," said the bank representative.

"Did y'all have my address at the dealership?" asked Bowling.

"You're kind of making your problem mine and we made every effort to contact you," said the bank representative.
Bowling insisted again that he had done nothing wrong.

"The title is paid for.  I did my job," said Bowling. "Sometimes things like this happen.  This has absolutely been a first for this type of thing, but things do happen."

But it's not the first.  The Used Car Commission regulates all used car dealerships in the state and investigates customer complaints.  

Earlier this week, the Used Car Commission held a hearing on Damien Bowling and A1 Autoplex, examining all the complaints against the dealership in the past three years. In the end, the board delivered a stiff verdict.

"Mr. Bowling, you understand that for you to continue in business, your license is suspended until the payment of these fines.  Your total is $20,200," said John Poteet, chairman of the Used Car Commission Board.

That $20,200 fine breaks down like this:

$3,000 for 15 counts of violating temporary tags at $200 per charge.  Temporary tags are only meant to last up to 60 days in Louisiana.
$6,000 for six counts of an open title at $1,000 per count.
$7,200 for 36 counts of non-delivery of title at $200 each as in the case with Roberts.
$2,000 for one count of fraudulently selling a vehicle.
$2,000 for hearing costs

That brings the total to a whopping $20,200.
Bowling said he plans to pay down the entire amount by next Monday.  Again, he cannot operate his dealership until he pays all his fines. The board also recommended Bowling re-attend the dealer seminar because he had trouble with paperwork.  As for Roberts, she received her title two weeks after Bowling showed up at WAFB and called the bank.

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