Galesburg couple buys stolen car from Davenport dealer

Published: Apr. 6, 2017 at 5:32 PM CDT
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In a strange sequence of event, a Galesburg couple bought a stolen car from a Davenport car lot. Kim Willson asked TV-6 Investigates to find out how that's possible. Willson's daughter bought a Buick Rendezvous back in February from a lot in downtown Davenport. Her daughter was pulled over by Galesburg police last week, who told her the car had been reported stolen.

Miranda Willson bought the car from LAE Auto on February 23. It's not her first time buying a car, and this time wasn't different from any other. The dealer gave her a bill of sale and the title which had been signed over to LAE from when the car was traded in back in October. It turns out though, whoever traded it in, wasn't the actual owner.

On March 28, Miranda Willson was pulled over by Galesburg police. She wasn't sure why and when she asked..

"(The officer) said my car was reported stolen out of Iowa," said Willson.

She was shocked.

"I was just like are you serious, I just bought this car and started getting my paperwork out," said Willson.

Her boyfriend Tyson Crawford was also stunned.

He said, "I went in the glove box, we got a bill of sale, a receipt of sale, how is it stolen?"

The officer told them they had all the right paperwork, license plates, and insurance. He let them go and said more investigation was needed. On March 31 , that investigation ended. Galesburg police had to impound the car.

"This is my only car, I have nothing, this is my only transportation," said Willson.

The car actually belongs to Stephanie Kloppenborg of Bettendorf.

She said, "Somebody traded it in claiming to be me with no license or anything."

She had been arrested October ninth, and says another person arrested with her ended up with the keys. She stored the title in her car and said that person found it.

"A friend that was also arrested with me had keys and possession of my vehicle, apparently while I was incarcerated he traded it in," said Kloppenborg.

LAE's owner Larry Smith didn't want to go on camera but explained to TV-6 Investigates how the trade in happened. Last Halloween, three people showed up with the car. One girl signed Kloppenborg's name on the title. When Smith asked to see an id, she said she lost it in a DUI and asked to have her friend sign for the new car. Smith said they knew the mechanical history and had a proper signed title so he did the trade. He put the Rendezvous up for sale. He didn't know Kloppenborg's mother reported the car stolen ten days later.

Kloppenborg has her Rendezvous back. Smith refunded the money Miranda paid for it. But no one can figure out how this slipped through the cracks.

Willson said, "Even the dmv asked us how they got it past them, and I don't know."

Iowa dealers are not required to put the cars they buy in their name, although the Iowa DOT Investigative Bureau strongly encourages it. Had LAE done so, there would have been a conflict when Kloppenborg's mom went to get a replacement title. It wouldn't have been issued, because a new title already existed. That would have caught this months ago.

The DOT offers some advise to consumers. First, it says never store your vehicle's title in the car. Second, anyone can check a title against an online national database.

Davenport police are investigating. Police chiefs from around the area will also hold a press conference Friday, April 7 to discuss car thefts.

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