News 4 Investigates: St. Louis City making money off stolen cars
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - St. Louis is profiting off stolen cars, leaving Kia and Hyundai owners furious and devastated.
Thieves snatched a local woman’s Kia, but she claims the City of St. Louis profited off her pain. The city is reportedly selling stolen cars and making big bucks.
A single mom and small business owner, Khadijah Hogans has worked hard and last year, and saved up to buy her 2015 Kia Sol.
“I was proud of it, I washed my car every week,” she said.
Hogans and her kids listened to gospel music every day on the way to school.
“That was our bonding time as a family and we can’t do that right now,” she said.
In August, someone stole it from right outside her home. She had fallen victim to the same thing hundreds of people in the St. Louis region have.
Thieves are stealing Kias and Hyundais with only a screwdriver and a cell phone cord. The problem has gotten so bad that St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones has called on the car manufacturers to make fixes, even threatening a class-action suit.
“I think Kia and Hyundai, they are a nuisance right now,” Mayor Jones said in a previous interview with News 4.
But Hogans told News 4 that is some irony, because she feels like the city stole it from her too.
“It almost feels like a trap,” she said. “I definitely feel like it was stolen twice, I feel like the Kia boys got me and the city got me second.”
That’s because her car ended up at the city tow lot.
It is like a car graveyard of sorts littered with Kias and Hyundais and other cars towed there.
“It was totaled, all the airbags deployed, damaged,” recalled Hogans.
She was actively trying to get it back. Though she has the keys, the title, and insurance on it, no one would let her, or the insurance adjuster, get the car, because she hadn’t yet gotten it registered. While News 4 was with her, Hogans learned the city had auctioned it off, exactly 30 days after they received it, for a mere fraction of what she still owes on it.
She knows she should have gotten it registered but was having a hard time coming up with the sales tax money.
“This is why other cities are being more progressive and including the cost into the cost of the car,” she said.
Hogans couldn’t believe the city hadn’t given her more time.
“It feels evil and so insensitive to say, ‘well that’s what you get if you don’t do it like this,’” she said.
We took her concerns straight to Streets Director Betherny Williams runs the tow lot.
“We are contacting owners, we see a lot of people retrieving their vehicles,” she said.
The city provided a letter they sent to Khadijah. She said she never got it.
“Once we send that letter out, that’s it, that’s our process, we inform everyone we know that has any dealings with the vehicle before it’s auctioned for 30 days,” Williams said.
But News 4 Investigates learned Hogans was far from alone. We analyzed the auction block lists for the last few months and found close to 40 Kias and Hyundais for sale by the city. So, we sent letters to the owners and found several them were victims of theft.
“I do apologize to those people that their cars were stolen, but we do have to follow the ordinance, that’s what we do here at city tow at the city of St. Louis,” said Williams.
The people contacted by News 4 reiterated that they owned their cars, but the city wouldn’t budge.
“Why is a title not sufficient to get the car back?” asked Chief Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager.
“Per the ordinance, and we follow the ordinance, it says your vehicle has to be registered, a current registration for a vehicle is how we release them,” responded Williams.
After the interview with News 4, Trager asked for the specific ordinance, which to our reading, only states proof of ownership’s required for release, not registration.
“I think that’s something we definitely need to look into,” said Alderman Brandon Bosley. He said it’s clear, the city should make a change in their policies or law.
“You have the loan, the bill of sale, the information from the dealers, it’s not difficult,” he said.
Especially, he said, when thousands of Kias and Hyundais are being stolen around St. Louis.
“We have to make those changes and be more empathetic to the changes that are going on nationally,” Bosley said.
“I don’t wish this on my worst enemy,” said Hogans.
She would like for resolution from the city. Now facing bankruptcy, with keys still in hand, and the hope she tries to instill in her kids, still in her heart.
“It’s frustrating, I gotta keep going though,” Khadijah told News 4.
Just since July, the city has made close to $1.3 million auctioning off cars. The Streets Director said they simply don’t have enough space at the tow lot to keep cars longer than 30 days.
Hogans has a GoFundMe for help with her car payments. You can find that information, here: https://gofund.me/4a7f3e6d
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