BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Just three days after the 9News Investigators went undercover at a used car dealership called Auto Trends in late February and early March, the Louisiana Used Motor Vehicle Commission (LUMVC) temporarily shut it down.
The same man reportedly running Auto Trends, Damien Bowling, was arrested several years ago for selling without a license. Now, despite Bowling telling the 9News Investigators and LUMVC that he doesn’t sell cars, the 9News Investigators’ undercover camera found out otherwise.
BOWLING: How you doing?
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: What’s up man?
BOWLING: You need some help?
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: Yeah, I was looking out here.
BOWLING: Give me one second, here I come.
In 2012, after the 9News Investigators received numerous complaints about Bowling and his then dealership, A1 Autoplex on Florida Boulevard, LUMVC ordered bowling pay $20,200 in fines for several violations. Until he paid that fine, Bowling’s license was suspended, and he was ordered not to sell any more vehicles.
But the following year in 2013, Bowling was found selling cars again. The state shut down his dealership and put out two warrants for his arrest.
He stayed on the run until a Crime Stoppers tip helped to catch him. Bowling was sentenced to 15 years in jail, but was ordered to serve three years of that sentence and pay restitution.
“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 Derek Parnell, executive director of LUMVC, back in 2013.
Parnell stuck to his word when in 2018, Bowling applied for a salesperson license. Parnell denied it “based upon his past criminal background.” Bowling was told if he wanted to appeal the decision, he had to go before LUMVC for a hearing, but they never heard from him again.
Fast forward to 2020, the 9News Investigators were told Bowling is back to selling cars. It’s why a member of the 9News Investigative team went out with an undercover camera.
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: What’s going on?
BOWLING: Damien. How you doing?
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: Nice to meet you.
BOWLING: Nice to meet you.
BOWLING: Everything is for sale.
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: Oh no way.
BOWLING: The Mercedes, I drove that for about three months, man. I’ve been having it for a while because I was driving the car. I love the little car.
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: Why you selling it?
BOWLING: I sell everything. I don’t keep no personal car. The Jeep, I like the Jeep a lot, a whole lot. It’s a ‘14 model.
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: So how much would something like this kind of cost?
BOWLING: It is like about $6,500, 695, something like that. This is not even my truck. I’m selling the truck for somebody. It’s a friend of mine lives in my neighborhood. It’s on consignment. I’m not selling it for the dealership or anything. It’s just a personal vehicle.
Parnell says LUMVC got in touch with Bowling about a year ago, but that Bowling told them he only washed cars at the dealership. Parnell says if Bowling quotes a price, that’s considered selling a vehicle. The 9News Investigators’ undercover camera caught him doing just that.
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: What would be a good price for it?
BOWLING: I will take $10,000 for the car.
9NEWS INVESTIGATORS: $10,000?
BOWLING: Yeah, I will. It’s been priced for, it’s been priced for $12,900. I put about 5,000 miles on the car since I’ve had it and I gotta’ get right around $10,000.
In case there was any question whether the man showing our member around was actually Bowling, after the two finished looking at vehicles, they shook hands and Bowling said, “I’m Damien.”
“He’s absolutely in violation of the law, absolutely,” said Parnell.
We showed all our undercover videos to Parnell.
“[He is] Absolutely negotiating the sale of a vehicle, which is absolutely against the law. He shouldn’t be doing that at all. He stated several times that ‘I sell everything on the lot. If you come back, fill out this paperwork.’ I mean, there’s no way that he can say he’s doing anything other than selling,” said Parnell.
It’s why the 9News Investigators went by Auto Trends to ask Bowling exactly what he does there. As soon as he realized who we were, he went inside his office and shut the door.
“He absolutely did not want to have any discussions with you about the business practices that are going on here,” said Parnell.
A quick check of Bowling’s Facebook page shows he’s actively sharing vehicles for sale at Auto Trends, which is registered to Christen Bossier, who appears to be Bowling’s girlfriend.
Since Bowling refused to come out, we called him, but he told us to please get off the property and added that he was doing his job of fixing cars. When asked if he realized he did not have a license to sell vehicles, he replied that he did not sell vehicles and only works on them.
We asked if he had ever quoted a price to anyone, but he hung up on us. After we got off the property, Bowling came out of his office and started working on a truck in the lot, trying to open the hood to a truck and then getting underneath it.
“In my opinion, he is trying to put on a perception that he is repairing vehicles. This is one vehicle that I have seen him somewhat repairing, but I saw him actively try to sell two vehicles,” said Parnell.
Three days after the 9News Investigators caught Bowling on our undercover camera, an investigator with LUMVC went to deliver a cease and desist order. Christen Bossier, the registered owner of the lot, was not there that day, so the agent spoke with Bowling instead.
“I got three different complaints in here saying that you, Damien, handled the transaction, you sold it to them, and you were their point of contact and you don’t have a license and you know that,” said Monroe Allmond, an investigator with LUMVC.
Allmond advised Bowling he had to go before the board for a hearing, but Bowling said he chose not to go for a reason.
“I feel like I am being scrutinized for what I have done in the past, but I have paid my dues for that,” Bowling told Allmond.
“No, you were being scrutinized for what you are doing right now, in violation,” said Allmond. “The minute I walk out of that door, y’all are shut down. You will not sell another vehicle.”
“I wrote him up for several counts, a total of 18 counts, and I also issued him an interlocutory cease and desist order and hearing notice,” Allmond told the 9News Investigators.
That hearing was scheduled for March 16, but was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic. The next board meeting is now tentatively scheduled for April 20. For now, the dealership is open again, but if Bowling is seen on the property, Allmond says the dealership could be shut down again.
Bowling still owes at least $11,000 in restitution and does not have a license to sell vehicles.
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