Car dealer skips town, leaves customers without car titles

By: Brian Shlonsky Email
By: Brian Shlonsky Email

If you recently bought a car, there's a chance you don't actually own it. The Colorado Department of Revenue is investigating more than a dozen cases against a local car dealership because the titles are no where to be found.

Roadhouse Auto is now just a vacant lot, the only sign of the old place is a few signs. Customers say the owner skipped town, leaving them without their titles, and former employees without their paychecks.

"I went to go get my tags on it, and the lady at the motor vehicle said 'we're having trouble with the dealership,'" Steve McKay said. Mckay bought the car from Roadhouse Auto, and he said owner Tom Donat never filed any of the paperwork.

So McKay came back to where he bought his car, to confront the owner face to face, only to find a locked door and an empty lot.

"I think that I got a better car than what I had, a newer car, and now come to find out, I don't own this car because I can't get the title to it," McKay said.

In fact, the title is in the hands of an Indiana based company that gives loans to the car dealership to buy the cars they sell. Roadhouse employees said Donat never paid the loan company, so they won't release the titles, meaning customers are paying for cars they may never be able to own, license or drive.

"He didn't pay the lease on the building for a couple of months, and that was hidden from the employees, and what happened come pay roll and pay period, we didn't get our paychecks," former Roadhouse salesman Tracy Treat said.

Since Treat showed up for work one day and found the place closed up, he's been left with no job $24,00 in missing paychecks, a car with no title and many questions that investigators said they're working to answer as they try to track down Donat.

"On a daily basis they tell you you're doing a great job, and thank you, and appreciate everything, and the whole time he was in the background stealing from us," Treat said.

Treat also said he thinks 22 people are still without their titles, and when the tags expire, won't be able to drive. He said he thinks Donat crossed state lines into Utah, and is on the run with his son, who may also have ties to Roadhouse Auto.

If you suspect you've been the victim of fraud, you are encouraged to contact the Department of Revenue.


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