FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It was as if Becki Brickley’s month couldn’t get worse.
First, neighborhood surveillance cameras picked up someone joyriding her new-to-her Kia Sportage, then speeding – and almost literally flying – through an intersection in the Hoagland-Masterson Neighborhood after being stolen on August 10.
Dealing with a stolen SUV was bad enough, but then came the kinks in the investigation once Fort Wayne Police arrived on the scene that turned everything upside down.
“This is my car,” she remembered saying. “And the officer’s like, ‘This is not your car. This is a stolen vehicle’ and I’m floored.”
Police told Brickley that her Kia, which she purchased from a Fort Wayne used car lot, had already been reported stolen in Illinois.
And that it was listed as an active case.
So, once it was found, they could not release it back to her. The vehicle, at least according to computer records, belonged to someone else in Illinois who supposedly still wanted it back. But how could that be right, thought Brickley, when she bought it from a well-known local car dealership?
“I really raised my voice at that detective because I was so upset and confused,” Brickley said.
Thus began a convoluted and unusual investigation of a stolen vehicle that had been impounded, bought at an auction by the dealership and then sold at that dealership all on the up-and-up – or so everyone thought – only for it to be stolen again.
Along the way, though, someone somewhere did not properly mark the vehicle as no longer stolen, leading to headaches for all involved.
“It’s just too much, you know, too many errors made – human error or, I don’t know what it is – but I’m paying the price for it,” Brickley told WANE 15.
Brickley first bought the Kia from Grote Automotive in January, 2023.
The deal went normal as far as those kinds of deals go.
It wasn’t until it was stolen from the front of her home where things went haywire.
According to a Fort Wayne Police report, a man in Illinois reported the Kia stolen from his driveway in Hazel Crest, a suburb of Chicago, this past September. A few weeks later, a tow company contacted the man and told him the company had his Kia in the company’s lot.
The catch, though, was it would take a fee for him to get it out of the lot.
Tow company officials told the man they were not aware of its status as being stolen, according to the police report, and told him if he did not pay the fees they would auction off his vehicle. The man was unable or not willing to pay the fees, and the vehicle was sold at auction on Dec. 14, the police report said.
This is where problems with the vehicle’s status as stolen or not stolen began.
“Assuming the tow lot obtained a mechanical lien, the court could have ordered the State of Illinois to issue a new title,” a Fort Wayne Police detective wrote in his police report regarding Brickley’s stolen Kia. “This would void the original title and stolen status on paper.”
It would not, however, correct its stolen status in law enforcement computer systems, the report said.
“This would be up to a law enforcement agency which, as of this report, appears was never notified OR failed to properly recover the vehicle in Illinois.”
Still, the detective seems to suggest in the report someone should’ve caught the vehicle’s stolen status once it reached Indiana – especially when Brickley bought the vehicle from Grote and titled it in Indiana.
“The looming question here is how the Indiana BMV did not ‘catch’ the stolen status before re-titling the vehicle in Indiana,” the detective wrote in his report. “Also, this status should have been caught during a typical out of state inspection, which is generally required to title a vehicle from another state.”
“These are typically done prior to submitting any out of state paperwork to the BMV,” the detective wrote in his report. “As of this report, FWPD records did not see any inquiries by our agency indicating an out of state VIN inspection or Indiana State Form 39539 was ever done by us.”
Grote Automotive officials declined to appear on camera. Instead, they sent WANE 15 a statement about the dealership’s involvement in this stolen vehicle investigations.
“Grote Automotive followed all rules and regulations set by the state of Indiana for buying and reselling vehicles,” the statement said in part. “We received a clean Illinois title as well as a clean vehicle auto check and Carfax showing no issues.”
“The only way to view the issues that was placed on this vehicle was to run the vehicle identification number through the national police database that no dealer or auction has access to,” the statement continued. “It is our opinion that the State of Illinois and the State of Indiana would both be at fault for processing a title that had any pending issues that auto dealers and auto auctions can not see.”
WANE 15 reached out to the Indiana BMV late Thursday afternoon but has yet to receive a response.
None of this, though, had really helped Brickley, who was not able to get her Kia out of impound after it was found and is planning to turn her vehicle over to her insurance company.
Although she said the insurance company was waiting for clear evidence that the car is actually hers.
Brickley filed a complaint with the Indiana Attorney Generals office, who can investigate or even try to mediate an agreement between Brickley and the dealership, which are far apart on a resolution.
Brickley would prefer to unwind the deal, return the car to Grote and have all the money she’s paid returned to her.
Grote officials said they offered to pay to help Brickley get her vehicle out of impound but she refused any of their help.
FWPD does not appear to have any suspects in this case.
WANE 15 will provide updates from the BMV and the Attorney General’s office.