The last place you may expect to buy a stolen vehicle is the car dealership, but police say it happened in Peoria, proving you can never be too cautious about a major purchase like that.
61-year-old Marty Goldstein, the President of Pioneer Auto Center was indicted Tuesday in Peoria County on 9 felony counts of illegal possession of stolen vehicles. This prompted countless questions from viewers about how to spot a fake deal.
So we reached out to local dealerships for help answering that question. The short answer is that it's not easy. There's no sign on any car that says "I'm stolen', but you can absolutely take steps to make sure you're not buying impulsively and opening yourself up to crooks.
James Patacsil, the Manager, of Mid illini Auto Center in East Peoria says simply, when buying any car, new or used...."just don't rush into it."
Patacsil understands it can be tempting to run toward the cheapest price tag available, but he encourages you to consider the trade off, if you do.
"We're a price driven, shopping society. Everybody's looking for the lowest price, but lowest price doesn't always mean best quality or the right vehicle." he explains.
Patacsil adds it may seem like common knowledge, but many consumers forget to ask for Carfax; a tool that his gives you everything you need to know about the history of your vehicle and perhaps most important, information about the vehicle's title.
"When you buy a vehicle it's actually titled to someplace else. It may have been to a lien holder. It may have been to the previous owner. When it processes through the state, then it gets titled in the name of the person who purchased the vehicle." he outlined.
Of course we often turn to dealerships for their expertise, but now that trust has been broken for some.
Goldstein's indictment unveiled an investigation by Peoria County Sheriff's Department, Secretary of State Police and West Bend Neutral Insurance; detailing how their discovery that several of his vehicles had matching VIN numbers of cars stolen from out of state.
It's a process that left Patascil and other local dealership owners scratching their heads, wondering how Goldstein was able to pulled something like that off.
Patascil says it's rare to find a copied VIN number and it typically only happens if an honest mistake is made. "That VIN number is basically the birth certificate or tag of the car that tells you what is is or what it was built with."
The owner of East Peoria Motors, David Norman, says he's worked with Goldstein in the past and explained while they have different business philosophies, he's never known him to be dishonest.
Still, he says consumers should always research who they're buying from, adding that a simple google search could uncover decision-altering information.
Both Patacsil and Norman recommend reaching out to Better Business Bureau to see how a particular dealership is rated and if they've received any complaints.
Additionally they include having a third party mechanic review a car, explaining that a credible dealership wouldn't rush you or dissuade you from getting the opinion of a person you trust before making a purchase.
Again, while there's virtually no way of pinpointing outright if a car is "hot", shady business practices or inconsistencies that arise during research, could prevent you from entering into business with someone who may operate in that manner.