AUSTIN (KXAN) — The joy of getting a car is turning into a nightmare for some customers who purchased their vehicle from Discount Auto Sales in East Austin.
On Wednesday, the used car dealership at the corner of Airport Boulevard and Springdale Road was busted by the Austin Police Department for operating without a valid license.
“This is very uncommon, actually,” said Officer Lamarcus Wells, APD District Representative in Region 3. “[We] had word that a dealer, unauthorized dealership, is operating at this property, so upon follow-up and inspection today, we found violations.”
Authorities spent the day tagging and towing over five dozen vehicles that did not have proof of ownership paperwork. While police say they don’t have reason to believe the cars were obtained illegally, they still need proper paperwork before they can release the vehicles back to the dealership.
Officer Wells credits the community for helping authorities first learn about the dealership. He says they received complaints of cars “for sale” on their streets. There were also complaints of abandoned cars on public right-of-ways.
Investigators say the dealership also had code violations, and did not obtain a city permit to operate at the location.
Vanessa Zavala recently bought a car from the business. She says she was told the vehicle came with tax, title and license, but later the dealership asked for $500 more to get the title.
“It’s been hectic with this car,” said Zavala. “I just feel like if I can just give it away or get my money back for it, I would honestly do that.”
She watched Wednesday as police cleared out the dealership she once trusted.
“It’s got me scared, I have two little ones. That’s scary for me and my family too,” said Zavala, who’s not sure what will happen with her car now. “They got people that come and buy and are so happy to get a vehicle and leave with it, and then they turn around and get a call.”
Police say the business recently moved to this location from another one nearby.
Investigators say the car lot will have to prove they legally own the cars, if they want them back.
As for customers waiting on titles, police are urging them to go to the DMV.
Both the Texas DMV and Code Enforcement are helping APD with the investigation.
Last fall, the owner of Austin Auto Web, along with one of his employees, were accused of stealing more than $1 million from customers. Many of the victims in that case told police they consigned with the dealership to sell their vehicle but when they came back, their vehicle had been sold without their actual signature and they never received money for their vehicle.