Locked up! Memphis man accused of running unlicensed car dealership charged with theft

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A Memphis man accused of running several unlicensed car dealerships is now facing criminal charges.

43-year-old Lamonte Gray was booked into jail early Tuesday morning after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Gray was charged with Theft of Property, $1,000 to $2500, which is a felony.

WREG caught up with Gray as he was released from jail late Tuesday afternoon.

He didn't say anything, and ran away from the camera.

News Channel 3 was also inside the courthouse Wednesday as Gray and his attorney left his arraignment.

He once again ran away, and refused to comment on theft charges and previous complaints.

Angel Shotwell is the person whose complaint led to Gray's arrest.

Her name is cited on the affidavit related to the warrant.

"He`s swindling people out of their money."

Shotwell said she paid Gray more than $2,000 for a 2006 Chevy Equinox, that's now inoperable and sitting in a parking lot.

"I went to the police, the Better Business Bureau, the state," said Shotwell.

Shotwell says she spotted the car after Gray posted a picture on Facebook, then finalized the deal at an auto repair business where Gray works called, Best Deals Service Auto and Body.

The repair shop is on Pleasant View in the Covington Pike area.

"He falsified the bill of sale, he put fake people name on my paperwork, fake businesses and the truck broke down a week later!"

Shotwell also says she never got a title for the SUV and later learned it was a salvage vehicle.

Despite necessary repairs, not having a title means Shotwell can't get her vehicle registered or insured.

Lisa Cooper had a similar story about the Honda Accord she bought for her son. She says she paid Gray $5,000.

"When we bought it we had no idea that it was a salvage vehicle."

Cooper also found the car through a post on social media, but she says she asked for, and researched the VIN ahead of time.

However, once on site at Best Deals, Cooper told WREG Gray presented a different Honda Accord, one they later learned had been totaled out and was a salvage car.

Cooper says they've tried reaching Gray to get the necessary paperwork for a title, but always get the runaround.

"Each week, it was oh well, we`re getting the paperwork, you don`t have anything to worry about."

News Channel 3 has been investigating complaints about Gray for years.

Customers have always complained about not being able to get titles, along with bad repairs.

The business has changed names and locations multiple times.

Matthew Jones is an attorney with Memphis Area Legal Services.

He's helped consumers sue Gray, and get clean titles.

It can be done, but requires specific paperwork, so his advice instead.

"Never hand anybody cash for a car sale, until you see and get the title," said Jones.

It's a lesson Cooper and Shotwell learned the hard way, but hope doesn't happen to anyone else.

"I hope that he will be tried, and that we will get this nuisance off the street," Cooper told WREG.

Shotwell said, "I don`t care if it takes me a year, two years, three years, I`m gonna put a stop to it. I am going to exhaust every measure that is possible to get this public nuisance put behind bars, stopped, whatever, stop ripping people off.

After years of complaints, the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission recently fined Gray and his business partners $90,000 for operating numerous unlicensed dealerships and selling salvage vehicles without properly disclosing that information.

Records show the state's order was based on roughly 30 complaints dating back to 2014.

The Board also confirmed an ongoing investigation.  It has two, new complaints against Best Deals and another against Gray.

Gray's next court date is December 13th.

His attorney told WREG he'd just gotten on the case so he couldn't provide any details.

A few other customers have filed police reports regarding theft accusations against Gray and Best Deals.