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Customer complaints pile up, state investigating after Tucson used-car dealer closes

Customer complaints pile up, state investigating after Tucson used-car dealer closes

State investigators are looking into the closure of a longtime used-car dealership in Tucson after receiving complaints from buyers who claim they were cheated.

As many as 29 people may have filed complaints with the agency that licenses auto dealers about Pat Egan Automotive Group, which operated until recently at the southeast corner of South Swan Road and East 22nd Street.

Now the vehicle lot sits empty, its office locked and phones disconnected, as detectives probe reports the dealer failed to transfer ownership or pay sales tax on vehicles sold shortly before the doors closed several weeks ago.

The situation has left customers in limbo, making loan payments on vehicles to which they do not have proper title to, officials confirmed.

As for the unpaid sales tax, one dealership customer said the state is asking lenders to consider covering that cost so purchasers won’t have to pay the tax a second time.

Patrick S. Egan, 53, who ran the now-defunct car lot, could not be reached for comment. His two business phone numbers no longer work and James Frisch, a Tucson lawyer listed in state records as the dealership’s statutory agent, did not respond to a detailed message left Wednesday with Frisch’s office assistant. Egan first registered the business in 1997, state records show.

Lt. Jim Warner, who oversees detectives with the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, confirmed the agency has received multiple complaints, but was not immediately able to provide the exact number.

One of the complainants told the Arizona Daily Star she recently spoke with a state investigator who told her she’s one of 29 people to file claims against Egan.

“I’m kind of panicked to have this hanging over my head,” said Melissa Davis, 40, who bought a 2011 Kia Soul from Egan for nearly $7,000 in August.

Egan told her she’d receive the vehicle’s title within 90 days, said Davis, a graphic designer in the Star’s advertising department. When that didn’t happen, she drove to the dealership and found it closed, then drove to the state Motor Vehicle Division for help.

There she learned she wasn’t the vehicle’s legal owner because Egan failed to document the change of ownership, Davis said.

“He never processed any of the paperwork for my car. He didn’t pay the taxes due, or the registration, so I am now on the hook for hundreds of dollars more than what I already paid him.”

Warner, the lieutenant in charge of investigators working the case, said the state usually is able to help victims obtain their vehicle titles eventually. But financial issues, such as a promised repair that wasn’t done or a refund that didn’t materialize, often end up in civil court, he said.

Some of the Tucson complaints may end up being referred to another state agency, the Arizona attorney general’s consumer fraud division, Warner said.

For now, he said, “All I can say is that the investigation is ongoing.”

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at 573-4138 or calaimo@tucson.com. On Twitter: @AZStarConsumer

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Reporter

Carol Ann has been with the Star since 1999, but has been an investigative reporter for more than 30 years. She's won numerous awards in the U.S. and Canada. In 2003, she was a war correspondent in Iraq and was a Knight-Wallace Fellow in Michigan in 2008.

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