Man pleads guilty in car auction scheme, now facing more charges

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis man set for sentencing February 1 in one case will face a judge in a different courtroom on new charges on the same day.

However, the alleged victims all share the same story.

WREG spoke with a person who didn’t want to show his face because he was sharing a secret even his family didn’t know.

“I’ll put two bullets in you, you know…if you go to the police,” the alleged victim said of threats he received after what was supposed to be a simple, car deal.

When he turned to WREG several months ago, all he knew was he’d handed over hard earned money to a guy he only knew as “Jack”.

“He told me he had a couple of vehicles for sale that someone left at an auction.”

It sounded like a good deal.

He said “Jack” sent pictures of the van he was set to buy. And that’s not all.

“He sends me these documents from the auction, and you’re a little more comfortable with what he’s saying.”

But when the man says he asked for more details, including a VIN, he says he only received a partial number.

WREG asked, “Did any red flags go up at that point?

The man responded, “Well, they should have.”

Looking back, another red flag the man says was how the transaction took place. He says he met “Jack” at a gas station and later a local fast food restaurant and paid for the van.

However, after handing over $1,250 in money orders he says the van never arrived. And neither did his refund when requested.

“Eventually I went to speak with the general manager at the auction at Adesa auction who told me this was fraud. All of it was fraud. None of these vehicles exist. That VIN number doesn`t exist.”

WREG verified the same.

In an email an Adesa spokesperson said, they’re “aware of alleged scams using the ADESA brand fraudulently…and have notified law enforcement officials.”

“It’s fraud. It’s theft. He stole my money. He doesn’t have a vehicle to sell. So I knew it was fraud and I just contacted the police.”

That police report showed an Arlington address for so called “Jack”, but we instead found a woman who had nothing to say.

At the same address, News Channel 3 ran into angry neighbors who’d filed complaints with code enforcement because they thought “Jack” was selling cars, and running a business out of the house.

WREG also found a civil lawsuit filed in 2017 against a “Jack Barnes” at the same address which awarded the plaintiffs $8200.

The suit claimed they lost money after paying for cars, supposedly coming from an auction that never surfaced.

The plaintiffs told WREG they still haven’t gotten their money.

At one point during our investigation, WREG got a call from one of the phone numbers listed for “Jack” on the police report.

We asked, “Will the people you dealt with, that want refunds, get their money back?”

The caller said he was a middle man and claimed buyers knew what they were getting into.

As far as the complaints he said, “If they had a real case, they could take me to civil court. They can take me to criminal court if it was that great. It’s not! And that’s why they had to come through Zaneta versus a judge.”

As it turns out though, a judge is exactly who Leandre Barner would face.

Lieutenant Tim Goodroe with the Memphis Police Department’s Economic Crimes Bureau explains how the man we talked to finally discovered who he’d really been dealing with.

“The victim had to pay for a tracking on their money order. And when he did, the money order came back with the suspect’s real name. Leandre Barner.”

The man identified Barner in a lineup. And MPD issued a warrant for his arrest on January 10, 2019 for theft of property.

However, WREG learned Barner was already facing prison time.

“It just shows us that this is his modus operandi,” said Lt. Goodroe.

Just two weeks before the man we spoke with filed his police report, records show Barner was arrested by Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies on several, outstanding warrants.

One of them was a theft case involving a Texas man who said he paid Barner almost $30,000 to buy six cars through auction that were never delivered.

A grand jury indicted Barner in November of 2018, he pleaded guilty in December and is set to be sentenced Friday, February 1.

“I’d really like to see this guy stopped because he`s taking advantage of people,” said the man who spoke with WREG.

Barner was arrested Wednesday, January 30th and charged with theft of property related to the allegations the man who didn’t want to be identified shared with WREG.

In addition to the sentencing in the Texas victim’s case, Barner also has a hearing set for Friday, February 1 on the new theft charges.

WREG spoke with Barner’s attorney prior to his latest arrest and he said he had no comment. We reached out to him again Thursday and did not hear back.

Meanwhile, after digging further into Barner’s background, News Channel 3 found six, additional police reports filed over the past few years related to the same alleged scheme.

In total, those consumers say they lost more than $12,000.

WREG spoke to a few of them, who didn’t want to go on camera. They all said Barner was extremely convincing, and even showed them what appeared to be some sort of auction badge or license.

News Channel 3 found out Barner does not have a Tennessee dealer license.

Lt. Goodroe said the cases underscore the importance of consumers really knowing the person they’re dealing with.

“Like every other scam out there, do your homework. Don’t rush into anything, know who you’re dealing with and be part of the process,” said Goodroe.

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