For thirteen years, government incompetence kept a Chevy Nova from its rightful owner

By | March 30, 2024

Read the full story on The Auto Wire

For thirteen years, government incompetence kept a Chevy Nova from its rightful owner

For thirteen years, government incompetence kept a Chevy Nova from its rightful owner

Oregon’s state government has a serious problem when it comes to documenting stolen cars. Among other things, we have seen cases of stolen vehicles being sold through dealers to unsuspecting customers. Then we came across the absolutely scandalous story The Oregonian about how a woman’s 1971 Chevy Nova SS, stolen thirteen years ago, was kept from her through a series of government laziness and incompetence. As car enthusiasts, it’s enough to make our blood boil.

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The whole ordeal for Cristin Elliot started in September 2010 when she parked her beloved Nova at a friend’s house and a lovely person decided to free her property. She searched everything for the car and even looked for online sales advertisements, but to no avail. Every time she heard an engine start that sounded like her beloved Chevy, she perked up. This went on for years.

However, Elliot’s persistence paid off on July 19, 2019 when Elliot found her ride for sale on Craigslist. While she was able to pick up details unique to the car, the big tip was absolutely incredible: No one had removed the license plate.

She said The Oregonian that her first intention was to test drive the Nova at the dealer where it was listed and never return. After all, it was rightfully her property, so if they called the police, she would be right, or so she thought. A friend talked her out of that plan, which unfortunately was probably for the best, and convinced her to call the police and do things that way.

Considering it took another four years and a legal battle to regain her rightful ownership, it would be difficult to call this entirely the right thing to do. That path should be the right way to handle such a situation, but the mess that Elliot had to deal with after contacting the police should really make you think carefully about that conclusion.

Before Elliot found her car, the dealer had bought it from a mechanic in Portland who had a story about why there was no title. When the dealer insisted the car had a legitimate title, the seller accompanied him to the Oregon DMV, where he put a mechanic’s lien on the Nova, claiming his shop had done work for which the owner had not paid. And so the seller was able to get a legitimate title to a vehicle that had been reported stolen.

You may wonder how that is possible. As previously mentioned, this is an ongoing problem at Oregon’s DMV and has led to many people purchasing a stolen car through legitimate channels, only to later realize they were being fooled. If The Oregonian The report shows that as of 2015, the Nova was no longer listed in state or federal law enforcement databases as stolen, as both failed to retain this data for the past four years. It’s a ridiculous policy that thieves can take advantage of all the time. In other states, stolen car records are retained indefinitely.

Furthermore, the police who seized the stolen car report for the Nova would have had to resubmit it to the state after four years if it had not been recovered. Obviously that didn’t happen, so the incompetence piled up.

Even better, The Oregonian discovered that the mechanic’s lien paperwork filed by the original seller wasn’t even in order. Still, the DMV granted the lien and gave the man a new title.

The dealer claims he didn’t see most of the paperwork filled out by the mechanic, so he had no idea things were a bit murky. Whether you believe him or not is up to you, but that’s his story. He was also angry that the Nova was branded and wanted to sell the vehicle back, but the mechanic stopped responding to messages. The funny thing was that the guy knew where the mechanic’s workshop was, so he could have talked to him in person, but for some reason he didn’t.

All the government incompetence left Elliot with an uphill legal battle. While she fought to get her Nova back, which was seized, the mechanic who originally sold it was charged with first-degree theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, unauthorized use of a vehicle and trafficking in stolen vehicles. However, the case was dismissed because there was no public defender available to represent the mechanic. So he got away with it on a technicality, and because the statute of limitations had expired, he could not be tried later, adding to the government’s gross incompetence in the case.

Everything came down to a lawsuit between Elliot and the car dealer who was allegedly duped by the mechanic. Covid restrictions sent the case to court, but Elliot ultimately won. For thirteen years she was kept away from her 1971 Chevy Nova SS, largely due to a series of lazy incompetence and perhaps even some corruption at various levels of Oregon government. While she’s happy to finally have her baby back, we’re left wondering when changes will be made to the laws in Oregon and why the DMV isn’t being raked over the coals about this and so many other similar cases. The state makes it far too easy for criminals to get away with stealing cars and profiting from their crimes.

Images via Wikimedia Commons

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