SUNNYVALE -- The parking lot of a Sunnyvale vehicle consignment company once filled with high-end used cars including BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and Lexuses is now mostly vacant, and some car owners fear they have lost thousands of dollars.
Most of the estimated 80 pre-owned luxury automobiles on the Sunnyvale Motorcars lot were mysteriously towed away last week. The dealership's phone number leads to a voice mail box that is full. Attempts to reach the business' registered owner, Trixie Ann Garcia, were unsuccessful.
Todd Parsons of Moraga was using Sunnyvale Motorcars to help sell his 2004 6-series BMW, valued between $30,000 and $35,000. He has not heard from anyone from the consignment business since last week, when he was promised a payment for his BMW after the dealership's first check to him bounced.
Parsons said that before he handed his car over to the dealer, he checked with the Department of Motor Vehicles and visited the dealership.
"I did the sniff test on this business. I vetted them out," Parsons said. "It looked like a reasonable avenue."
Capt. Doug Moretto of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety said his department is investigating Parsons' case.
"We have not determined that a crime has occurred at this point," Moretto said in an email.
Workers at British & European Import Car Service, next door to Sunnyvale Motorcars, said they saw a tow truck mostly empty the parking lot on Nov. 30.
"These were all high-end cars," said Neil Musngi, a manager at British & European Import Car Service. "It's big money."
Musngi said customers of Sunnyvale Motorcars began showing up this week and were stunned to find an empty lot.
Retired human resources manager Art Reimers, of Danville, said that when he signed his 2008 Range Rover Sport over to Sunnyvale Motor Cars, a man named Andy Paul, who told Reimers he was the owner, assured him that the dealership was licensed and bonded by the DMV.
"Dummy me, I believed them," Reimers said. "I don't like the DMV, but if anybody would pick you to death to find out what you're doing, it would be the DMV."
Peter Beyer, a finance manager in San Jose who sold cars while he was in college, said he checked in with the agency before he handed over the keys to his 2008 BMW 650i. Their license and bond checked out, he said.
Beyer even kept the pink slip for his $54,000 car while Sunnyvale Motorcars tried to sell it. A manager at the dealership told him he could come down in person, verify the funds and sign over the paperwork once a buyer was located.
Instead, Beyer said, his car ¿is gone from the dealership lot with no explanation.
Police have told him it could take two or three weeks to untangle the web of paperwork that spells out ownership, he said.
All three buyers described a similar beginning to their stories -- they tried to sell the cars through Auto Trader and Craigslist, only to be contacted by representatives of Sunnyvale Motorcars, who urged them to sell through consignment.
Parsons said a company representative "pestered the hell out of me for weeks."
Parsons found some complaints on Yelp from people who said they hadn't been paid. Employees told him the company had some cash flow problems in the past, but they had since resolved them.
Once the car was sold, ¿Parsons took a dealer-issued check to the company's bank.
"They kind of chuckled and laughed at me and said, 'There's no money in this account,'" Parsons said.
After repeatedly trying to get payment, Parsons said, he was told that the dealership had acquired a new line of credit, and would be sending out cashiers checks on Nov. 30.
He's still waiting for that check, he said.
Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez. Contact Daniel M. Jimenez at 925-943-8013. Follow him on Twitter @DMJreports.