TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The stolen car that Paige Hegr was tricked into paying $10,000 for in July is finally out of her name after a Better Call Behnken investigation.
“I want my money back, but I’m glad the car is at least out of my name,” Hegr said.
Hegr tuned to 8 On Your Side’s Better Call Behnken to make sure she is no longer connected to this car and to get law enforcement to take another look.
Now, she’s getting both of those things.
A sophisticated ring of thieves took at least five rental cars from Georgia.
The crooks had a fake title, fake registration, a fake Carfax report and a fake driver’s license.
But the money Hegr forked over was real. Now the family is without a car and their savings is depleted.
“We thought this car was perfect for us,” said Hegr, who needed another car for her family because she was 8 months pregnant at the time.
The day after she purchased the 2018 Hyundai Tuscon, Hegr went to her local DMV office in Tampa and paid to register the car in her name.
The day after that, she found rental paperwork from National Car Rental in Augusta, Ga., tucked between the car seats.
“I can’t believe this happened,” Hegr said. “Everything seems so real. All of their documents looked legit.”
She called local law enforcement and then a trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol showed up to take back the car.
Our Better Call Behnken investigation found that the car Hegr bought is not the only stolen rental car in question. A detective with the Lakeland Police Department says he was told this car was one of several rental cars stolen.
Matt Tindell, Division Commander at the Richmond County Marshall’s Office, says a sophisticated ring of people rented at least five cars from a lot at the Augusta Regional Airport under false names and then either sold, or tired to sell, the cars in private deals, mostly in Florida.
He remembered one car was sold in Jacksonville and one in Orlando. He said he does not know of any arrests but said the ring stopped their work at the airport there because he has not heard of any other cars missing.
Hegr’s deal occurred in July and Lakeland police say they have no leads.
All documents with personal information were doctored. The driver’s license from the “seller” included the woman’s photo but the driver’s license information and New Jersey address belonged to someone else.
Hegr is also concerned that this group of thieves is selling other cars in this area. She found several ads for cars on sites like Offer Up and she noticed that the photos of the cars were taken in the same location. She believes they are listed by the same group of people she responded to.
Hegr says the trooper who picked up her car told her that if he had seen her driving the car, “he would have pulled me over with guns drawn.”
“He said that happened to another victim in the area. That is so scary,” Hegr said.
“That could have happened to me with a baby in the car.”
Gary Gross, of the Lakeland Police Department, says the crooks know what they’re doing.
“They train, they rehearse. It’s not unusual for them to wear wigs, wear make up… something that fits that particular scam,” he said.
If anyone has any information regarding the case, please call 850-617-2383 or email BCII-ION@flhsmv.gov.