Customers say they can’t get titles from Universal Auto

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It's a business with a bad reputation.

The site of a murder in 2012 and a shooting four months ago, plus a pile of lawsuits against the folks who run the place.

However, Monica Justus' client had no idea when he found an ad on Craigslist for a 2008 Chevy Tahoe, so he went straight to Universal Auto on Summer Avenue to buy it.

Justus, a Memphis attorney, said her client "gave a $10,000 cash down payment and completed the second payment for $2,000 for a total of $12,000 back in July."

Fast forward roughly four months and the guy can't even drive the SUV, because he still hasn't been able to get a title or a renewed temporary tag from Universal.

On top of that, he didn't get what he paid for!

A vehicle invoice shows the Tahoe with 98,000 miles, but an Odometer Disclosure reads 167,000 miles.

Another customer has a similar story.

"My mom has cancer and I was trying to find a vehicle to get her back and forth to Nashville," the woman said.

She added, "The car was $1,800 cash, but the day I went, he did not have the title to the vehicle."

Justus says they're sick of the run-around.

"It's been numerous phone calls by my client to the dealer, getting us involved, numerous phone calls, we've sent letters. Now we're resorting to your news channel to see if we can maybe get the word out," she said.

Everybody scattered when the On Your Side Investigators visited Universal Auto.

Two workers outside walked across the street for a smoke break and left their one customer sitting out front.

They came back, but didn't have anything to say.

Turns out, another location of Universal Auto on Airways is now shut down.

The On Your Side Investigators obtained records from the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission showing the dealership and its owner, Andrew Collins, were flagged for "no further licensure" based on complaints.

WREG previously documented some of the problems, like one couple whose car got repossessed by Universal even after making payments.

Then there was the woman who was supposed to have her car repaired, but later found it chopped up in a junkyard.

"I think it's horrendous that they're still in business," Justus said.

The On Your Side Investigators also learned the location on Summer Avenue is not a licensed car dealership.

After seeing promotions for the story, Lamonte Gray, who identified himself as the manager, called WREG.

He says Universal is selling cars under a Garagekeeper's Lien, which allows mechanics to sell a car they've worked on and gotten stuck with.

Gray claims he had postage problems when submitting the required documents for recent clients, but the titles are now available.

He said by phone, "Probably everybody you talking about, all the paperwork just came back today."

There are specific forms required for such transactions, but Justus says there's no indication any of that took place with her client.

"If I can help one other person from giving these people any money at all and not getting what they're paying for, then I will feel that I've done my job," she said.

The female customer who spoke with WREG said, "I would love to see my money back or the title, but even if I don't get anything for myself, just to know that it won't happen to anyone else, to see these guys stopped."

A spokesperson from the Department of Revenue says confidentiality laws prevent them from disclosing motor vehicle record information, so there's no way to determine if Universal Auto actually filed any paper work for these deals.

As for getting a title, when buyers can't get one from a seller, there's a way to get a new Certificate of Title in their own name. Both of these folks are trying to do just that.

WREG has also discovered that despite what looks like a notary stamp on documents for one of the clients, the Shelby County Clerk's Office confirms it has no record of Lamonte Gray as a Notary, and neither does the Secretary of State.

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