BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The former owner of a used car dealership, A1 Autoplex on Florida Boulevard, has been sentenced to jail time. Damien Bowling was sentenced to 15 years. All but three have been suspended with an additional five years of active supervised probation.
"He's facing a 15 year maximum term," said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore. "The judge suspended all but three years so he'll have to do that time in the beginning, then he'll be on probation for five years."
Bowling pleaded guilty on July 2 to three counts of theft of a motor vehicle and one count of felony theft of more than $5,000.
Bowling has been the subject of several 9News investigations starting back in September 2012.
A local woman, Brandy Roberts, bought a 2006 Dodge Charger in August 2011 from A1 Autoplex. Nearly a year later, Roberts was still getting the runaround from Bowling when trying to get a title on that car. That's when she called the 9News Investigators asking for help.
Our investigation revealed Bowling had several complaints against him at the Used Car Commission. The Used Car Commission regulates used car lots in all of Louisiana. After a hearing on those complaints against Bowling, the commission delivered a stiff ruling. Bowling was ordered to pay $20,200 in fines for violating the rules on temporary tags which are only meant to be used for 60 days, open title violations, non-delivery of titles, and in the case with Roberts, fraudulently selling a vehicle. Until that fine was paid, Bowling's license to sell cars was suspended and he could not sell any more vehicles.
But then in April 2013, another customer called the 9News Investigators saying Bowling sold her a car illegally.
When we repeatedly asked Bowling if he sold her the car, he refused to answer the question. Because Bowling had not paid a penny on his $20,200 fine, he should not have been selling cars. It's why the Used Car Commission ordered A1 Autoplex to shut down through a cease and desist order last April.
Bowling had been on the run with two warrants out for his arrest. With the help of a Crime Stoppers tip, Bowling was arrested in late April. By early May 2013, sources told the 9News Investigators that Bowling and his wife were evicted out of A1 Autoplex because they did not pay rent for several months. Since then, a new dealership has since set up shop there.
Now, Derek Parnell with the Used Car Commission wants everyone to rest assure because Bowling most probably will never sell a car again.
"He can apply for a license, but the chances of him receiving a license due to his background and business practices in the past, it would be very hard for him to get a license," said Parnell.
"He obviously ripped off a lot of good people in Baton Rouge, and they lost their money, money they really depended on," said Moore.
Bowling has to spend three years behind bars. Once released, he will be on supervised probation. Part of that probation includes paying back more than $13,000 as restitution.
Parnell said every used car dealer must be bonded. Because Bowling had not paid his $20,200 fine, the commission went after the bond company and they paid the fine in its entirety.