Breaking News
More () »

Flagstaff woman scammed into buying car with $7,000 lien finally made whole

Days after 12News exposed the scam, Ashley Lewis got a call from state investigators and learned the owner of the dealership in question paid off the lien.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A Flagstaff woman who unknowingly purchased a car with a $7,000 lien can finally drive the car. It comes after more than a year of pleading with the dealership's owner, filing a police report, notifying the attorney general's office and reaching out to 12News for help.

Days after 12News exposed the scam, Ashley Lewis got a call from state investigators that her case was being looked at. Shortly after that call, the dealership owner paid off the lien.

RELATED: Arizona woman stuck after she was sold a car with $7,000 lien 

“It was like a brand new car experience," said Ashley Lewis.

Lewis and her parents drove down from Flagstaff to Phoenix in March 2022 to purchase a Chevrolet Suburban. The mother of two, who also looks after her younger brother, needed an SUV with more room, so it was a perfect fit.

She found the Suburban through an online advertisement at Coyote Auto Credit, a small dealership near 27th Avenue and Osborn Road. Documents show she worked with a salesman named Oscar Santos Rojero Tolentino, who also owned the Suburban.

She paid $8,000 cash and left with the car. The salesman said he would mail her the title, but it never came. Lewis decided to go to the MVD to handle it herself, and that's when she was told about the lien.

“It has been a mess," Lewis said.

Because of the lien, she couldn't drive the car. Instead, it's been parked in front of her house for months.

She pleaded with the dealership owner to pay off the lien or give them their money back, but he denied responsibility and said Oscar did not work for him.

Instead, the dealership's owner stated he had learned Oscar had done the same thing to other customers and suggested she contact him with her questions about the lien.

“We thought should we sell it for parts? We really all sat here scratching our heads, like, what are we going to do with this?” said Katie Fritzsche, Lewis' mother.

After filing a police report and notifying the AG's office, not knowing what else to do, Fritzsche contacted 12News. After our report aired earlier this month, their phone rang.

“We received a call right away first thing from the Inspector General's office saying we are so sorry that this happened," Fritzsche said. “Having action, literally the next day from the Inspector General's office, it's been amazing. We're so grateful.”

ADOT officials also got in contact with Coyote Auto Credit's owner, who, last week, paid off the lien.

The owner told 12News he was waiting for the title to arrive in the mail, which he will then turn over to investigators with ADOT's Office of the Inspector General.

“There is no public transportation out here. There is no way to get to anything anywhere," Fritzsche said. "So this is really life-changing for us for her to have her own vehicle again.”

Lewis obtained a temporary registration as she waits for the title to arrive. She also met with ADOT's Office of the Inspector General. They are now investigating whether this has happened to any other buyers at the small Phoenix dealership.

Thankfully, Lewis and her family's car troubles are in the rearview mirror.

“Look up everything you can about a car before you buy it," Fritzsche advised. "Buyer beware. Just don't trust every single person that seems nice.”

ADOT spokesperson Bill Lamoreaux provided 12News with the following statement and information for buyers.

"The MVD is working with the new owner to get a 90-day registration on the vehicle. ADOT's Inspector General's investigation into this matter remains open. However, we encourage potential buyers to do a little bit of extra research before closing on a deal, regardless if it is a private sale or through a dealer. One of those steps would be to confirm the VIN number and then check that number for a lien through the title services options on azmvdnow.gov. Here is a car buying checklist that is also helpful when purchasing a vehicle."

"If someone suspects a dealer of fraudulent behavior, they can use the ADOT Fraud Hotline to report the matter."

ADOT has additional helpful tips before buying and selling vehicles linked here.

You can check a vehicle's title status by creating an account here. Then, type in the vehicle's VIN number. If there are any liens, they will appear during this search.


Learn more about other 12News investigations by subscribing to the 12News YouTube channel and watching our I-Team playlist.

Before You Leave, Check This Out