Dealership’s abrupt closure leaves customers asking, ‘where’s my car?’

DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) — Kayla Medeiros’ 2008 Dodge Caliber should be parked in front of her house, but the car is nowhere to be found.

“Everything is gone,” Medeiros told Target 12. “I’m out $5,000 and no car.”

Medeiros provided a receipt from Southcoast Auto Exchange, which shows she paid cash for the car. Medeiros has the title, too. But according to a state inspection report, the car failed inspection.

Medeiros said she returned the car to Southcoast Auto Exchange for repairs.

Medeiros got the runaround for weeks, she told Target 12, then discovered her car boxed in, making it impossible to drive off the lot. The next time she went to the dealership, Medeiros claims her car was missing.

“I try so hard to be such a good person and to know these people just weren’t good people hurt me,” she said. “I’m more hurt than anything.”

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Target 12 checked the dealership’s filings with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office. The managers of Southcoast Auto Exchange are listed as Jason Tanner and Charles Caruso.

Medeiros took the dealership to small claims court. Court records show Southcoast Auto Exchange was ordered to return the car.

John Tsonis also has a title for a car that he says disappeared from the Southcoast Auto Exchange lot.

“We’ve had nothing but issues,” he said.

Just like Medeiros, Tsonis took Southcoast Auto Exchange to small claims court. He won a $4,800 judgment.

“I have no idea where the car is,” Tsonis added. “So now I’m out $5,000 for the car and without a car.”

Target 12 combed through court records. It didn’t take long to find a total of 18 small claims judgments against Southcoast Auto Exchange or its listed managers, Tanner and Caruso. According to the judgments, they owe their customers almost $120,000 combined.

Target 12 also discovered dozens of complaints filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. Some people claim their deposits weren’t returned. Others say Southcoast Auto Exchange sold them vehicles that can’t pass inspection.

“How many cases does it have to take for it to become a criminal matter?” Tsonis wondered.

Target 12  tried several times to set up an interview with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Her office declined, but a spokesperson said Healey is monitoring the situation and advising consumers who have complaints to file cases in small claims court.

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We also checked in Rhode Island and found Caruso and Tanner had a used car dealership in Cranston. According to business filings with the Secretary of State’s office, Caruso became the president of Quality Auto Body Inc. on Warwick Avenue in 2010. Jason Tanner was listed as the vice president.

The description of the business was “motor vehicle repair and sales.”

According to the Rhode Island Motor Vehicle Dealers License and Hearing Board, there were 24 complaints against the Cranston dealership from January 2013 through January 2015.

A spokesperson for the Rhode Island DMV told Target 12 that Quality Auto Body Inc. appeared in front of the board three times, all on the same date in 2014. He also said the dealership in Cranston closed in January 2016.

Target 12 tried repeatedly to track down Caruso and Tanner to get answers. We went to several addresses and all of our phone calls and text messages to Tanner’s cell phone have gone unanswered.