“There’s no point spending more than a thousand on your first car,” I had warned my son.
Last February, when 1 answered a ringing phone and was greeted by a satin-smooth voice that oozed charm and a disquieting sort of familiarity, glad tidings arrived from five seasons past. The voice identified itself only as “C.R." The initials stood for Clarence Randolph Thompson. as I remembered, and it was impossible to forget this avalanche of a man. He stood about six-foot-three (with stacked heels), weighed at least 225 pounds, wore large round sun goggles, dashiki-like shirts, had velvety skin the color of melted chocolate, a voice that stroked every last syllable, and a dazzler of a smile.
My septuagenarian mother observed that the floor of the trunk was cracked, that the body had been repainted with two tones of nonmatching red.
C.R. was everyone's best buddy hack in 1975. He hung around a lot with a woman named Yvonne Coover. a pale-looking mother of live nearly grown children, who blended quietly into the woodwork while C.R upstaged everyone in his presence and managed to fill every classroom at Mesa College with his larger-than-life countenance.
C.R. convinced Mark to go to San Diego Federal Savings and Loan.
He had recently severed a long-standing connection with the U S. Marine Corps, as well as a king-standing marital connection that had produced four progeny. He appeared to be having one hell of a time on the G.I. Bill. “C'mon. let's all go for coffee.” he used to grin jovially as he motioned to the school cafeteria during break time. He played the perfect Pied Piper for the “Literature through Film” fun class. The rest of the group was comatose by comparison.
"I suggest you relax your attitude. Take my advice and stay away from the boys at the DMV."
C.R. talked old times with exactitude. He said he was into running now (five years ago it was tennis and swimming); he was still living with Yvonne and her kids; and he was in law school. “Western State Law. downtown." he added. “I'm serious."
“Good God. Didn’t the G.I. Bill ever run out on you?” I asked.
“Sure it did. But I’m a car wholesaler, now. Been doin’ it for years and been makin' out fine. Business is readily hot! You should see what I’m drivin’ now. A long, low-to-the-ground Lincoln,’’ he crooned.
Perhaps my eagerness to jot down the phone number of West Coast Motors on El Cajon Boulevard, with whom he said he was affiliated as a wholesaler, could be attributed to my earliest socialization in the notorious New York City tradition of "I’ve got an uncle in the business” (everyone did) and the lure of “I can get it for you wholesale” (retail being reserved for suckers and out-of-towners). My birthplace was a gigantic marketplace populated exclusively by wholesale dealers who swarmed in the streets of Manhattan, hawking the best deals in town. C.R. quickly had me hooked as visions of clean-looking, half-priced automobiles danced in my head like crisp twenty-dollar bills. “My son’ll be sixteen next month and he’ll be looking for a reliable used car,” I said. “Maybe you could steer him in the right direction.”
“No problem, dahlin’. I got top connections,” came the quick reassurance. “I’ll take him up to the auction with me when he’s ready to go and he can pick out whatever he wants. We go up to Anaheim every Wednesday. They’ve got all kinds of cars from all over the West Coast. Anything he buys’ll be at least a thousand below Blue Book. Just have him give me a call when he’s ready.”
On the eve of Mark’s sixteenth birthday, I called. C.R. wasn’t around at West Coast Motors so I called his house and renewed my vague acquaintance with Yvonne, who was still a student (“I’m at SDSU. now and into running — and still into psychology”). Half an hour later C.R. returned the call.
Because I respected the sanctity of a teen-ager’s first automobile, I ran no interference in the conversation between my son and C.R. At the outset, however, I did caution him not to mention the amount of cash he had accumulated during summers of lawn tending, baby-sitting, car washing, dishwashing at Farrell’s, coupled with some handsome cash gifts from an uncle in Boston. “There’s no point spending more than a thousand on your first car,” I had warned. “All you really need is something to tinker with that 'll get you to school and back.” My son, of course, paid no attention to my admonitions. I heard him say, “I’ve got 3000 saved, but of course I don’t want to spend that much unless I run into an absolutely terrific deal. ” And I cringed.
Mark and C.R. set up an appointment for the following Monday, when the delivery of a $400 deposit (“refundable if he doesn’t find anything he likes”) would insure my son’s serious intentions about purchasing a car. C.R. showed up at our place at the appointed time carrying an attache case and wearing satin running shorts, fishnet T-shirt, name-brand running shoes, a cap with a sun visor, huge round glasses, and a grin that lit up the living room. He was instant warmth and smiles, immediately making himself a member of the family by shooting the breeze with my younger daughter, Wendy, with my co-mortgagee and sometimes cheerleader John, and by munching on an apple he had casually picked up from the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter top. Although thin wisps of gray in the sideburns of his modified Afro would normally indicate a man in his early forties, C.R. was still ageless, still full of sunshine.
As he described his vast wholesale operation, which included a team of mechanics, drivers, detailers, and display lots, his pitch was richly peppered with such cryptic verbs as float, filter, score, and catalogue; the adjectives were classic, primo, premium, and cherry. Anecdotes were long-winded, loaded with superfluous character description, but in every case, the bottom line was way below Blue Book. “My mission is to help kids like Mark learn about cars and get a good start,” he explained. “I’ll even get him a Blue Book so he can see for himself what a bargain he’ll be getting.” As a long-time skeptic of altruistic missions, I bluntly asked, “What’s in it for you?” to which he promptly replied, “Two hundred dollars!” I was relieved that the air was cleared and there’d be no surprising last-minute charges. Before handing C.R. a check for the $400 deposit, I asked him to whom it should be written. “Leave it blank,” he instructed me. He handed me a numbered receipt for the check and then filled in his own name. He assured me that he and Mark would call from the auction to discuss potential purchases and to apprise me of the possibilities so that I would be part of the consultation process, albeit long distance.
Mark didn’t go to school the following Wednesday; he waited for C.R. to pick him up before 8:00 a.m. C.R. didn’t show until close to 10:00 a.m., according to Mark, and the delay understandably created anxiety in the sixteen-year-old who was about to shop for his first car in a strange situation many miles from home. When C.R . at last arrived, other customers were in the back of the car, and before they reached Anaheim they stopped for a leisurely breakfast, which included a briefing as to what to expect at the auction.
When my son failed to call from the auction as promised and when he failed to appear for dinner that night, when 6:00 p.m. turned into 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. turned into 8:30 p.m., my anxiety level shot sky high. Finally I called West Coast Motors. They hadn't heard from C.R., they said, and they knew nothing about my son. At 10:00 p.m. I called C.R.’s residence, and just as Yvonne began telling me that some of the customers had already returned, an exhausted but exhilarated teen-ager slumped in through my front door, accompanied by a strident C.R. (minus a Blue Book). “They cost seven bucks,” Mark confided later.
Scott Coover, Yvonne’s son, sat in the driver’s seat of my son’s new acquisition — a bright red 1975 Celica, which had violated all three warnings given to Mark at dawn: Don’t ever buy anything red; don’t buy anything newer than a ’72; and don’t spend more than a thousand. 1 glimpsed the Celica in the dark. It looked gorgeous. But before I could turn around, it was being driven away to “check it out,” “remove the wrinkles,” and do some “detailing” and some “smogging.”
Before C.R. drove it back late the following afternoon, he gave us a breakdown of figures by phone. Although the bid price of $2250 was considerably lower than the retail Blue Book figure, the $200 commission, the $35 auction fee (which was not previously mentioned), $22.50 for a smog check (which seemed awfully high), assorted taxes and license plates (the car didn’t have any), drove the grand total up to $2715.30. “I’ll handle everything,” C.R. murmured, “so you won’t have to waste your time in those long lines at the DMV.” The name on the final bill of sale above his name was City Car, not West Coast Motors. “I work through them, too,” C.R. explained when I questioned him. “Sometimes I get a better deal that way.”
I began to write out a check for the balance due on the car (minus the initial $400 deposit) but C.R. convinced Mark to go to San Diego Federal Savings and Loan, where Mark had an account and could draw a cashier’s check for the remaining $2315.30. Like the obedient mother of a liberated teen-ager who was an expert on everything, and prompted by my readings of the effects on history of well-intentioned, emasculating mothers, I questioned nothing and removed myself from the picture entirely. I was surprised to learn later than the cashier’s check was drawn to City Car for $1315.30 while the remaining thousand, upon C.R.’s insistence, was paid to him directly in cash.
When they returned. C.R. said his drivers were all tied up at the moment and would Mark mind giving him a lift all the way from our place near the University Towne Centre to his house in Allied Gardens. Since Mark hadn’t taken his driver’s test yet (he had only a learner’s permit), my condomate John accompanied them on the forty-mile round trip drive. Along the way, C.R. offered Mark the opportunity to earn a twenty-five-dollar finder’s fee to recommend other high school students to the auction. He also encouraged Mark to sell the car, that he could make a “cool grand on it.” But Mark liked the pretty red machine and intended to keep it. “It’s my first set of wheels,” he beamed. He passed his driver’s test the following day, drove the Celica to school, picked up riders along the way, and was the Crown Prince of Clairemont Drive.
Several days later, when my septuagenarian mother (who knows nothing about automobiles) observed that the floor of the trunk was cracked, that the body had been repainted with two tones of nonmatching red, that the front was slightly bent and so was the back,, and that the radiator had been damaged (“It’s obvious to me that it’s been in an accident,” she frowned), I immediately telephoned C.R., fully prepared for a confrontation on the items which my son, in his inexperienced zeal and his eagerness for aesthetic appeal, had overlooked. Yvonne took the message.
“What seems to be troublin’ ya, dahlin', ” crooned the sweet-talkin’ law student/auto dealer/altruist when he returned the call. He couldn’t understand the problems, he said, because his mechanics had “thoroughly checked out the merchandise .” * ‘Everythin’s fully guaranteed. dahlin’, so don’t worry. Ah’Il handle everythin’,” he said reassuringly, and added that the paperwork and license plates were on their way from Sacramento and should turn up in the mail any day now.
Needless to say, they didn’t arrive. Neither did C.R. He invented a lot of tap dancin’ double jive twistin’ as to why the “minor items” my mother had noticed hadn’t been repaired yet, but he had “catalogued-the problem” and was “workin' on the solution,” and he kept a close, concerned vigil by phone. Meanwhile, Mark spent approximately another fifty dollars on Celica necessities.
I was curious about the auction process itself. I had recently been to a huge antique auction and was researching an article for Applause magazine about the theatrical aspects of auctions and their habitues. So I decided to go to Anaheim to see the auction myself rather than to rely on second-hand knowledge. I gave C.R. a $400 refundable check because I knew I’d be able to control myself and avoid anything red, anything repainted, anything with a cracked trunk floor. And I set my limit low — nothing over $600 (I didn’t care if I wound up with a clunker as long as it had California license plates and got better gas mileage than my 350-horsepower asthmatic old Ford). C.R. assured me there were plenty of cars around at that price that were worth at least double. “You’ll have a great time,” he said, “and you’ll love the scene.”
On the appointed Wednesday morning, three delaying phone calls half an hour apart created anxiety and postponed our departure several hours, and although we (myself and two other potential customers) were eager to get up to the auction early to preview the cars before the actual bidding (and confusion) began, we stopped off for a late breakfast and didn’t arrive at the California Auto Dealers’ Exchange, 1320 North Tustin Avenue in Anaheim, until after the auction was well underway.
All smiles, C.R. greeted his cronies, nodded to several other dealers, and made short shrift of describing the mechanics of the auction process to us as he pointed out the necessary landmarks. “Phones over here, bathrooms over there, snack bar on the left, and soft drink machines on the right,” he said. “All the cars on the lot are unlocked and they’ve all got keys in ’em. Feel free to drive any car you’re interested in, write down the window number on the tally sheet, and I’ll have my mechanics check ’em all out for you,” he grinned. “Now here’s some silver for the Coke machine, dahlin’,” he added, shoving some loose change into my hand. He promised to lend me his Blue Book, but then he couldn’t find it.
The row upon row of vehicles, segregated primarily by age rather than by condition, was overwhelming at first glance, but my spirits rose as I hopped in and out of cars, which I drove for a few lanes and then parked. When I eventually spotted a few cars that seemed to meet my idiosyncratic requirements, either they didn’t start (they had no batteries or they were out of gas) or I couldn’t locate C.R., who was searching for a wholesale beef-jerky connection. He finally scored a ten-dollar bag and offered it around. I munched on a piece and wandered up to the auction block itself, where the big boys from L A. hung out. The theatrics were high vaudeville in six arenas, or bidding lanes. In each lane was a top-notch auctioneer who. according to C.R.. earned $500 per auction and worked only one day a week — Wednesdays. The instantaneous deliberation, the speed with which decisions were made amazed me. A car-a-minute was sold, with the process repeating itself in all six lanes at once — six cars changed ownership every sixty seconds. “Youuuuuu bought it!” shouted the auctioneers almost in unison. "Now move that metal outta here and bring the next one up!”
It was not unusual for dealers to bring their own cars to the auction and have drivers take these vehicles through the pits to auction them off to other dealers throughout Southern California. Standard practice was for a coterie of shills to gather around a vehicle as it was being driven through, surround it, open the hood, examine it in an interested fashion, and make purring sounds in an attempt to interest serious bidders. None of the hardliners went for this hyperbolic melodrama, but retail customers like myself seemed to be fascinated by the quick intrigue and the volume of money that swept by on the slight motion of a hand or nod of the head. Everyone was having a good time. In the middle of it all sat a 700-pound man, expressionless, almost motionless for hours, under a sign that read. "Blue Books — $7.”
Hundreds of people, mostly men — some in Western-style boots and Stetsons, others in casual cardigans, and others in traditional business attire — nodded back and forth to each other, exchanged business cards, drank coffee, and seemed eager to do business. The few female dealers were easily recognizable — they were primarily blonds and redheads heavily made-up and dressed to kill in designer jeans and skinny spike heels; they made fluid small talk and they all had terrific-looking teeth. I sensed I was on the periphery of a contemporized Brechtian subculture where Mack the Knife was lurking just around the comer. I listened at the snack bar to fragments of rhapsodic conversations about the scores of the day and I waited for Kurt Weill’s chorus to whistle a netherworld ballad.
By the time the customers who had driven up with us had bought a vehicle and had driven it back to San Diego (C.R.’s drivers had remained as invisible as his mechanics), my reactions had slowed, and although I was keyed up by the people and the process, I wound up like my son — exhausted and exhilarated, but without a purchase. "I want to go up again,” I told C.R. on the way home in the yellow Dat-sun pickup he had just purchased for a retail customer in San Diego. I agreed to let the $400 deposit ride for two weeks, when I would return with a more realistic idea of what could be purchased with my $600.
Later I mentioned my people-watching experience to Mary Vidana, a friend from the neighborhood, and she said, “Sounds like fun. I want to go, too.” So when C.R. came by (more than an hour late) on Wednesday, April 2 with two other customers who sat in the back of the black ’62 Lincoln (“I’m gonna sell this classic model up there today for some big bucks,” he explained, “and drive sumthin’ back that’s new and shineeec”), we drove to Mary’s place to pick her up.
C.R. asked that we all wait in the car for ten or fifteen minutes while he explained the wholesale operation to Mary and collected her $400 good faith deposit, which he told her (unbeknownst to the rest of us) was for insurance purposes. Upon our arrival at the California Auto Dealers’ Exchange, he pointed out the “landmarks,” handed out tally sheets but still no promised Blue Books, and we set out on the giant task of looking, examining, driving a few cars a few feet, writing down numbers and maximum bids, and trying to locate the elusive C.R. He had put the classic 1962 Lincoln through the pit. No one bid on it.
The automobiles that appealed to me had a stick shift (I had never driven one and wanted an automatic transmission) except for one. I got C.R. to bid on it but it quickly sold for $500 more than my maximum offer. So much for reality. I was discouraged easily this time around, even though C.R. claimed that the better buys were coming in late. After I had consumed four cups of caffein in the snack bar, Mary came in to announce that she had just purchased a 1974 Vega station wagon. “Did you drive it?” I asked, not remembering any Vega on the tally sheet and having had a disastrous experience with a ’73 Vega of my own several years ago. "No,” she said.
I spotted it in the pit and it looked nice and shiny and lots of people were interested in it. “It’s that dark-red one down there,” she pointed. “C.R. promised to have his mechanics check it thoroughly and take care of any mechanical problems it might have. He said he’d guarantee that it was in good working order. What more can I expect for $700?” At which point it occurred to me that inequality of knowledge is the key to a sale.
By this time it was growing dark, the auction was about to close, and since I considered myself a two-time loser, I was anxious to get home. C.R. promised to round up his team of drivers. Minutes later C.R. announced that his drivers had already left the auction and that we would have to steer the Vega back to San Diego since he had no way of getting the Lincoln home except to drive it himself.
The Vega wouldn’t start. C.R. fiddled with it and finally got it going, but it sounded strange and had not yet been checked by a mechanic. Neither Mary nor I was willing to drive this uncertain vehicle all the way back to San Diego after dark and we wondered how we were going to get home. Between the two of us, six children were in San Diego waiting for their mothers.
Out of desperation I volunteered to drive the Lincoln, and after a caffein hype at the midway point, we managed to hit San Diego before 11:00 p.m. I dropped Mary off and parked the Lincoln in my driveway. C.R., who had followed, dpvc in the red Vega with promises that the car would spend all of the following day on the lot, where it would be given a thorough examination by his mechanics. “My car doctors’ll take care of everything. You’ve got my personal guarantee,” he said to Mary.
Early the following morning, when C.R. appeared on my doorstep for the keys to the Lincoln, I requested my deposit back. He endorsed Mary’s deposit check over to me and said that his mechanics were already working on the Vega to get it into tip-top shape for her. But when Mary called C.R. late that same night to ask about the car, Yvonne said that it had been sitting in front of her house all day. C.R. returned the call and said that Yvonne was confused. He suggested that Mary meet him at the bank the following day so he could collect in cash the balance due.
C.R. gave her a receipt for $1069.60, which was her total cost for the Vega, including his commission, auction fee, smog check, and taxes. He requested that because his drivers weren’t available, she drop him off at his place. She did. On the drive to Allied Gardens, he urged her to sell the Vega immediately but she rejected the notion, insisting that a second car was needed for her teen-age son, Tony.
At 6:00a.m. on April 16, C.R. contacted me again and told me he had found the deal-of-a-lifetime car that I was looking for. It was a 1973 Capri, he said, and it was a terrific deal, and because I had so much patience I could have it for only $600 and that he would waive his commission and if I had the money ready by that night the auction fee could be avoided. I said I’d let him know. He kept calling and I kept wavering. I didn’t like the pressure and didn’t want to feel obligated to buy anything. “But you’ll love it, dahlin’,” he said, “and there’s no obligation.” When he called late the following afternoon, his energy was way up. He spoke excitedly about the Capri and asked if anyone were home. “Everyone is,” I replied, annoyed at what I considered to be irrelevant. He showed up much later and presented the pitch, and while my friend John kept shaking his head and phones kept ringing Mark and Wendy kept walking in and out with lots of distractions and my older daughter Lisa called collect from New Hampshire, I willingly suspended my disbelief and bought the package solely on the promise that my $600 was refundable upon demand (which he had written on my receipt) if I changed my mind. When we asked again about the pink slip and license plates and registration on Mark’s Celica, we were assured that they were on their way from Sacramento. “You know how slow the bureaucracy is,” he said, and we nodded in unison.
John sat in stunned silence that evening, his head still shaking, while I attended the preview performance of the Repertory Theatre’s production of Of Mice and Men. At a cast party held afterward at Uncle Bill’s Saloon around the comer on Fifth Avenue, the bartender and I discussed cars. I mentioned my auction connection and the forthcoming Capri. He mentioned that his girlfriend Sandra had recently bought an Audi at the Anaheim auction through a guy called C.R. who made lots of promises that he never kept. “If I ever get a hold of him. I’m gonna rearrange his features,” said the bartender. After a sleepless night of bad vibes. I called C.R. early the following morning, told him 1 changed my mind, and asked for my money. “I’m very disappointed in you. I thought you had faith in me, dahlin’,” he said as he reprimanded me on the morality of reneging on a deal. I mentioned my conversation with the bartender. “Never heard of him,” said C.R. And he was shocked that I would allow a stranger’s falsehoods to sway me from my purpose of getting a wonderful car at an unbelievable price. 1 held Firm. “I’ll have to Find another buyer. Not to worry, though. I've got a few buyers in mind,” he said, implying that my refund depended on his making a sale.
I called daily for almost a week, and as was customary, Yvonne answered the phone, said she’d give C.R. the message, and then he’d call me back within half an hour. Finally I pinned him down and he said he’d be right over with some good news for me. He showed up late that evening with a limping, wheezing, stick-shift yellow Capri and said that it’d be all mine for only $ 1000 more and that I had totally misunderstood the “arrangement" that we had. When I said 1 wasn’t interested, he suggested I Find friends who were. 1 refused. What about neighbors? he asked. “I’m not in the business of peddling lemons,” I replied tartly, and gave him forty-eight hours to come up with my $600.
Meanwhile, Mark had decided that his mom was right after all, that a $2715.30 car was a bit much for a high school student to be driving around, and he decided to sell it and buy something more practical, a vehicle that could possibly lug around his set of drums. He placed ads in the classified (according to C.R., the Celica was worth at least $3550) but the response was minimal. When people came to look at the Celica in broad daylight, the highest offer made was a thousand under asking price.
Mark reluctantly reduced his price in a subsequent ad, which attracted a pair of buyers who were willing to pay a breakeven figure. They offered a check for $2775 and wanted to drive it directly home. However, there was the unresolved matter of paperwork and license plates.
As the couple waited, I called C.R.’s number and there was no answer, so I immediately contacted City Car. They weren’t listed in either the Yellow Pages or the white pages, but I got their number from the business card that C.R. had given me several months earlier. A sleepy voice answered simply, “Hello.” A baby’scries in the background convinced me that I had dialed the wrong number. ’’Hello,” I said, nonplussed. ”Uh, is this a car dealership?”
“Well, uh, sort of,” came the uneasy reply.
Oh boy. I thought. “Is C.R. there?” “No, he isn’t. Maybe I can help you. He’s my partner.” said a man who reluctantly identified himself as Peter Iordanu, an owner of City Car. He seemed puzzled as I explained the situation. “It’s simple,” he said. “Just go down to the DMV, pay them the money, and get the papers and license plates. You don’t need me.”
I repeated the fact that we had already paid for the plates and paperwork in March (this was in the middle of May), and he asked if I had a receipt for that payment. “Of course I do,” I said.
“Give me your phone number and I’ll call you back in two minutes. I just want to look it up,” he said.
I reassured the Celica buyers that the phone call regarding the paperwork would be forthcoming in a few minutes. It never came. But they were so anxious to drive the Celica home that they paid in full by check and I told them that Mark would deliver the paperwork and license plates pronto. When I called back to City Car that night, I was tersely told that C.R. was handling it.
C.R. called at dawn the next day, incensed that I had called City Car without his knowledge. “What do you want to get them involved for? I told you I’d handle it. It seems that Peter made a mistake. He blew' it. He never turned in the money to the DMV, but I ’ll get it all straightened out for you. Who bought the car? Might as well give the plates and pink slip to them directly. It’ll save time, since you’re always in such a hurry.” I gave him the name of the new owners of the shiny red Celica and asked. “Now where’s my $600?”
“It’s comin’ tomorrow.” he said. “I’m closing a deal early in the morning in Oceanside. Jes’ hang in there and everything’ll be coool. You worry too much. Gotta learn to slow down and relax."
Tomorrow came and went with no sign from C.R., so I called City Car again since C.R. had signed “City Car” on the receipt for the $600 directly above his own name. This time Peter Iordanu disclaimed all knowledge of a C.R. Thompson; now he was saying that he didn’t know what I was talking about, that anyone can sign anyone else’s name to anything, and that written receipts don’t mean a thing. When I mentioned the missing Celica papers, he advised me to go to the DMV, pay them the money that I had already paid before and be done with it. I accepted John’s offer of ten milligrams of Valium. No sooner swallowed when the people who purchased the Celica were on the phone complaining that the ignition key wouldn’t unlock the door. I located C.R., gave him their address and phone number, and extracted from him a promise to straighten everything out posthaste. The following dawn C.R. reported that everything was accomplished. “How do I know?” I asked.
“Take my word for it,” he answered.
“I can’t,” I replied. “I want a receipt.”
“You’ll just have to trust me,” he said.
Then I threatened to contact the DMV about the missing paperwork.
“Now, that won’t get it any quicker, dahlin’. In fact, it might even delay things quite a bit. Ah’m mighty offended that you would even contemplate such a move. If you want me to straighten out the Celica, I suggest you relax your attitude. Take my advice and stay away from the boys at the DMV."
The following day I contacted them. I filled out a twofold complaint — one regarding the missing paperwork and the other for the missing money — and begged that they expedite it. I was told I’d be hearing from an investigator within ten days.
At 5:30 a m. several days later C.R. called to repeat that everything was squared away with the new owners of the Celica. including the paperwork, the plates, and the door locks and keys. “What about my money.” I asked.
‘‘I’ll be over later." he said.
He showed up around dusk and claimed that his time was worth at least fifty bucks an hour and that 1 was buy in’a piece of him and look how much time he had already given me trying to get me a good deal and he didn’t have the money with him yet, that the economy was bad and interest rates were sky high, that the auction fees just went up another hundred, and that Jimmy Carter was getting America ready for war and that was why he didn’t have my $600 yet but it was comin ’ up real soon and I jus ’ gotta have faith.
Mark interrupted the monologue and demanded to see C.R.’s dealer’s license and C.R. was terribly insulted and hurt but said that if we insisted that he’d bring it with him next time he came over and I said there wouldn’t be a next time and Mark told him to get the fuck out of the house and C.R. lectured Mark on rudeness and using offensive language in front of his very own mother and told me that my son was ill-mannered and then I told C.R. to get the fuck out of the house and he protested my expletive and stated that he was disgusted and shocked and he still wasn't completely convinced of the sincerity of our collective hostility toward him until we shoved him out the door. In lieu of a Valium. John handed me the mail, which contained a form note from the DMV investigations department stating that investigator Larry Searles had been assigned to my case.
My eventual visit with Searles, a seasoned investigator who had been in the DMV business for fifteen years and who had heard and seen everything, included the caveat emptor lecture I had anticipated. We calmly discussed the fact that the aftermath of the recession and sudden interest-rate hikes were partially responsible for the proliferation of small businesses that operated on shoestring capital and. unable to compete with large, legitimate outfits, created an enormous investigations file. “The largest caseload we get is with unlicensed dealers. Since licensed dealers must guarantee the title of the vehicle. there’s more profit in being unlicensed.” he explained. “All those notorious hole-in-the-wall places on El Cajon Boulevard have fallen by the wayside.
“Know what it takes to become an automobile dealer in the state of California? Twenty-five dollars and filling out a short form with standard questions. One of the questions refers to prior convictions.” he continued.
“At least they need clean records,” I thought aloud.
“Not at all." he said. “Applicants can be convicted felons as long as the crimes aren’t auto related. It’s that easy. A $5000 bond is required, though, which means that the dealer puts up a few hundred dollars with an insurance company and he’s bonded. But $5000 is nothing; it can be wiped out with just one crooked deal. The state should require a half-million-dollar bond. That’s the only way to protect the public.”
“How many unscrupulous dealers are actually prosecuted and wind up behind bars?” I asked.
“None that I know of.” he said. “Changes need to be made in Sacramento. It's different with the liquor business. If a liquor store employee is caught selling a can of beer to a minor, the store is immediately closed down. But at the DMV our hands arc tied.
“Most violations involve short cuts in procedure and paperwork, like yours. Dealers pocket the tax money and never report it. Eventually, customers come whistling to us for the paperwork and then we get after the dealer. I’ve heard stories of the same car being sold a dozen times to a dozen unsuspecting customers — and never any papers on it. If people were willing to spend a few hundred dollars more and go to a reputable dealership, they’d spare themselves a lot of aggravation. Problem is, people want to save a few dollars. What happens? They wind up on the short end!”
Searles’s investigation of the records indicated that C.R. Thompson was not licensed in Sacramento either as a dealer or a salesman, that Peter Iordanu of City Cars was on probation, and that West Coast Motors was closed down .pending prosecution for a quarter-million-dollar automobile swindle. Most complaints go unreported, according to Searles. because people are reluctant to admit they ’ve been had. They tend to swallow their lumps and forget it. 'That’s why unscrupulous, unlicensed dealers get away with so much,” he said.
He took the meager paperwork I had and corroborated the fact that the tax and license-plate money I had paid C.R. was never turned in to the DMV. Nevertheless, he said he would see to it that the Celica papers and plates would be straightened out and given to me. A check with the present owners of the Celica revealed that C.R. had indeed visited them, attempted some fancy footwork with the temporary registration sticker on the windshield, collected duplicate tax money from them, and arranged to meet them at a later date at the DMV office on Normal Street. The runaround was similar to ours, and neither the pink slip nor the license plates had been delivered to them. My son had paid nearly $3000 for the Celica and so had they, yet the paperwork had never changed hands, and because there was no license plate, I had begun to suspect that the car had been stolen.
Searles determined that City Car was the place to go for the papers and plates. “If you don’t deliver them by Monday, you’ll go to jail.” he threatened. Peter lordanu came through and I immediately turned the sought-after ownership papers over to the new owners of the Celica. who said they had invested a small fortune getting the car in proper running order. “The paperwork is the easy part," announced Searles after the fait accompli. “Getting your $600 will take a little doing, especially since C.R. isn’t licensed. We really don’t have jurisdiction over an unlicensed dealer like we do over City Car. Your $600 is really a matter for the city attorney or the district attorney; it’s consumer fraud. But there are hundreds of cases ahead of yours and getting your money back can take a long, long time,” he warned. I didn’t hear from Searles for at least a month. Meanwhile, I persevered. I spoke with a DMV district supervisor who said he was checking into what could be done, but it seemed to me that everyone was passing the buck. At last I acted out of frustration and bombarded the DMV with every press credential I could muster from my wallet, including a membership card from the National Federation of Press Women.
Someone in power must have taken notice of the sonic booms I was creating because I soon received a call from Searles. who said that complaints about C.R. had been trickling in and that he had spent all morning in the city attorney’s office, that they had ordered an investigation of C.R Thompson, and that I’d be hearing from them. I did.
Investigation results prompted deputy city attorney Jo Linda Thompson, who had just passed the bar in January after graduating in 1978 from the University of San Diego Law School, to convince Judge Bruce Iredale to issue a warrant for C.R. ’s arrest for violating California vehicle code #11800 (acting as an unlicensed salesman) and California criminal code #17500 (misrepresentation), and recommended to the judge that a bail of $5000 be set for his release. The amount was considered heavy for a misdemeanor offense, but due to the fact that there was enough evidence to charge C.R. with eight counts. Judge Iredale complied with the neophyte city attorney’s request. (Jo Linda later explained that it would have been impossible to charge C.R. with a felony due to the difficulty of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that his intent at the precise moment of the crime was to permanently deprive a victim of money.)
So on August 4, 1980 at 9:30 a.m., DMV investigator Searles, another investigator. and two back-up San Diego City policemen arrived at C.R.’s house in the 4000 block of Orcutt Avenue in Allied Gardens and rang the bell several times. No one answered, so they went around the back of the small three-bedroom tract home, got inside through an unlocked door, and found C.R. in bed on his stomach with both hands underneath the pillow, feigning sleep. They drew their guns, instructed C.R. to remove his hands from under the pillow, slowly turn around, and to get up with his hands raised. “He was really shaking,” Searles reported when he called me several hours later. “He won’t be dealing cars for a long, long time.”
According to Searles, every neighbor was out on the street watching when C.R. was forcibly removed from Yvonne’s house in handcuffs and escorted to a waiting police car. “It must’ve been 10:00 a.m. when we booked him. I don’t know how long it’ll take him to raise the bail money but as far as I know, he’s already had lunch on the county.”
C.R. managed to slip out of jail after lunch. At 3:00 p.m. that same day he was released on his own recognizance after Judge Napoleon Jones heard an appeal to rescind the $5000 bail. Despite Searles’ conjecture about not dealing cars again for a long time, the morning’s events apparently did not have a particularly sobering effect on C.R. Within two hours of his release from jail, he contacted a divorced mother named Phyllis Perry. They had met six years ago when C.R. and Yvonne held work-study jobs as locker room attendants in the P.E. department where Phyllis is employed as secretary to the Mesa College athletic director. On the evening of August 4, C.R. put the bite on Phyllis Perry for $2000.
That evening C.R. instructed Phyllis to have a cashier’s check made out to herself in the amount of $ 1600. He had collected a $400 deposit from her on July 18 in her Mesa College office, where he made his presentation in the presence of the Mesa College athletic director and the men’s locker room attendant. He had stressed how well he was doing in the car business, that he was living in a $ 100.000 house. and was driving a big Cadillac. He made an impressive speech about the number of fabulous deals around, and Phyllis Perry, because she was so eager to buy a car for her daughter Kathy, who required therapy three to four times weekly as a result of extensive knee surgery, willingly suspended her disbelief in the hopes of getting a good bargain.
Several days later the double talk began. C.R. told her he had purchased a white Honda CVCC at the auction but that it had been in an accident while being driven to San Diego. He promised he would take her up to the auction on Wednesday, August 6 and she should have her $1600 ready.
Then, on Wednesday. August 6 at 6:00 a.m., less than forty-eight hours after his arrest, C.R. called Phyllis to inform her that at the dealers’ meeting the previous evening a decision had been made to close the auction to anyone but dealers due to disturbances caused by private parties, ‘i’ll go to the auction without you,” he said soothingly, “and 1 guarantee I'll find acaryou like.” By 7:30a.m. he was on her doorstep in Mira Mesa to receive the cashier’s check endorsed to him in return for a promissory note for $2000 plus a receipt for the additional $1600. which stated that the money was for a “vehicle valid only upon acceptance.” Then he was off to Anaheim. He called that afternoon with the news that he had purchased a yellow Honda and said that details would follow.
Three days later he turned up on Phyllis’s doorstep at 6:30 a.m. to say that there had been a mix-up and the Honda had been sent back to Texas but that it would return to San Diego within two days. It didn't. A week later, C.R. said the Honda would be sent to Jolley’s Chevron station on Mesa College Drive (at Phyllis’s request) for inspection. Phyllis and her daughter waited for two days but the car never arrived. The following day C.R. said that since the dealer didn’t deliver the Honda, that he had backed out of the deal. By August 21, after five weeks of unproductive fooling around, Phyllis requested a refund. C.R. begged for an extension, went back to the auction on Wednesday, August 27 and returned with a 1975 Honda with more than 93,000 odometer miles, which Phyllis refused. By the weekend she began insisting more vehemently on the return of her $2000 and C.R. began promising more vehemently that he'd get back to her.
He did. The following week Kathy Perry (Phyllis’s daughter) and another customer named Amelia accompanied C.R. to the auction, despite the fact that a month earlier C.R. had claimed the auction had been closed to the public. (By that time, the dealership mystique had become so debunked that it was common knowledge among us slow learners that anyone could walk into the California Auto Dealers’ Exchange in Anaheim and offer any of the dealers hanging around the sum of fifty to seventy-five dollars for a successful bid on an auto of our own choosing.) C.R. was late again and Kathy and Amelia didn’t arrive at the auction until 2:00 p.m. By then most of the suitable vehicles had already been sold. They sat around the auction office for four hours while C.R. made his “connections.” He purchased a ’77 Camaro for some people in San Diego, he said, and had Kathy and Amelia drive it back because his own mechanics and drivers didn’t seem to be around. C.R. followed them in another car. It was dark and the lights on the Camaro weren’t working, so they were forced to leave it in another dealer’s driveway.
Amelia requested the return of her $400 deposit, but C.R. hedged. Finally she complained to Dan Balona, the owner of J&J Auto Wholesalers on El Cajon Boulevard, where C.R. had been hanging out for a few weeks since he had applied to the DMV for a salesman’s license. (Even though the DMV had arrested C.R. on August 4, he was issued a temporary permit by the DMV in Sacramento on August 18, granting permission to sell cars. Because he hadn’t yet been convicted, there were no legal grounds to deny this permit.) Amelia lucked out. Dan insisted that C.R. return her money immediately and when he got wind of more of C.R.’s nefarious dealings, he requested that C.R. remove himself from the premises permanently. “He wasn’t easy to get rid of,” Dan told me later.
C.R. beggeo to borrow a ’76 Toronado just to get himself home. Dan agreed. Subsequently, despite Dan’s many attempts to retrieve his property, C R. proceeded to invent myriad elaborate excuses as to why he hadn’t returned the car, and Dan could not report it stolen because he had agreed to lend him the car. After a month of futile gamesmanship, Dan went to the house on Orcutt Avenue but the car wasn’t around. He finally threatened to call the police but C.R. has convinced him that when the refinancing on his house came through (the house belongs to Yvonne), he’d have eleven or twelve thousand in his pocket and would give Dan some money in exchange for the car.
When Kathy Perry returned from the auction in tears, Phyllis was livid. She called C.R. Yvonne said he wasn’t around. C.R. returned the call the next day to announce that he needed more time to return the money. Then, she didn’t hear from him. Phyllis’s next phone message via Yvonne was that she had planned to register a complaint with the investigations department of the DMV. C.R. returned the call within ten minutes, irate and outraged that Phyllis had the audacity to leave such a message with Yvonne. Using a strong offense as his best defense, he further complained that his reputation at Mesa College had been slandered as a result of their dealings and demanded that she write him a letter clearing his name. She agreed to do so as soon as her money had been refunded. He accused her of extortion and said that he didn't have the money but that he'd be “workin’ on it.”
Phyllis Perry finally withdrew all her savings (forfeiting interest), borrowed a substantial amount, and bought her daughter a car. She filed a formal complaint against C.R. Thompson with the DMV. Larry Searles told her of C.R.’s arrest and his pending court hearing and suggested she see the city attorney or the district attorney to prosecute C.R. for grand theft. She filed claims with both divisions and on September 23, she sent C.R. a registered letter which informed u;m of these complaints and she offered hi... seventy-two hours to make restitution.
Apparently still unruffled, even in view of the upcoming trial, C.R. made no attempt to contact Phyllis Perry or to return the money until 5:30 of the morning on which she was to testify. He advised her, as a student of the law, that she didn’t belong with the other victims and she was hurting her own case by testifying with us and that he happened to have a car that he could get rid of to pay her off in full if she would drop the charges and that this deal was something his attorney knew nothing about — ”Jes' between the two of us, Phyllis,” he pleaded, because, he said, her testimony would be especially injurious to his future career as a lawyer. Phyllis said she wanted her money back. “Then there was no more contact from him,” she said, “except that my phone kept ringing and there was no response from the other end, so I finally had to take the phone off the hook."
The fact that the trial began October 31 — Halloween — was significant in setting the mise en scene for what happened later. Throughout the long, somber corridor of the county courthouse, a steady parade of attorneys, judges, bailiffs, marshals, witnesses, jurors, defendants, and other interested parties played out their little dramas in ordinary street clothes. Interspersed among us, however, was an elaborately costumed executioner dressed in traditional black, a whip in one hand, an ax in the other, and a noose dangling from a rope on his belt. Later it was learned that the fearsome figure was in real life an investigator for the department of revenue and recovery. “He’s here to prove that judges aren't soft on crime.” quipped Superior Court Judge James Malkus. A woman who strolled the corridor decked out as a pumpkin, replete with bright orange leotards, drew the comment, * That mus* be da judge,” while someone posing as George Washington (with powdered wig) ambled about the hallway holding a scroll.
Despite the Halloween lightheartedness, the courtroom has long been considered California’s last bastion of conservatism. Since jurors tend to believe the testimony of those who appear conservative, and since Mary Vidana was warned to dress conservatively in court after she had turned up in a karate outfit at the city attorney's office for a pretrial rehearsal, I spent the entire evening prior to Halloween ferreting out conservatism from my crowded closet. “Should I wear a suit and tie,” asked my son Mark, who had also been subpoenaed as a witness for the prosecution and was annoyed at the prospect of having to make up two tests he would miss at school that day.
“No,” I said.
“Because you don’t own one,” I said.
After an hour of deliberation, followed by consultation with John. I settled on basic, innocuous beige. When I appeared in court minus jewelry, in subdued make-up. and in my beige blazer. I was confident that I had chosen correctly. Patricia Wallace, attorney for the defense, a Texan new to San Diego who had worked her way through the ranks from legal secretary to court reporter to trial lawyer, and Jo Linda Thompson, prosecuting attorney from the city attorney’s office, wore beige blazers, too. The marshal, a peroxide blond with an upswept Forties hairdo, wore an official beige uniform; and Janet Kintner, the judge, who had at one time worked in the consumer fraud division of the city attorney’s office, was a knockout in basic black.
The hearing had actually been scheduled for October 23. However. C.R. sent Patricia Wallace to the court to plead for a continuance on the grounds that her client was hospitalized at the VA Hospital in La Jolla because he was suffering from acute diabetes. On that basis, a week’s continuance was granted. But on October 30, when the cast of characters again assembled in court and the leading actor again failed to appear. Wallace requested of presiding Judge Richard Hamscom another continuance until December 18. She waved a doctor’s note in front of him.
Jo Linda Thompson insisted that The People speak, and representing The People, she stated that the VA Hospital had no record to indicate that the defendant is now or recently was an in-patient. Then she produced an affidavit from a Michael Weintraub, a law student and an employee of the Price Club, who wrote that at the time the defendant claimed to be hospitalized. he was, in fact, at the Price Club attending to a long-standing bad check he had written in a large amount.
Judge Hanscom wryly dismissed the doctor’s note after explaining how easy it is to fake symptoms and ordered that the defendant appear in court by 1:00 p.m. that day or have a warrant issued for his arrest.
He showed up, all right, and he was helped into the courtroom by his attorney, on whose arm he heavily leaned as he walked stiffly, with a decided limp, to approach the bench. Appearing to be on the point of physical collapse. C.R. addressed Judge Hanscom in hushed tones and explained the minutiae of undergoing a series of neurological probes to discover why his body functions, his excretory secretions in particular, had gone whacko. Judge Hanscom bought none of it. He set the hearing for Halloween at 9:00 a.m.
C.R. opted for a jury trial rather than a hearing, even though juries are considered unusual in misdemeanor cases, where, if a defendant pleads innocent, a hearing before a judge is customary. The People vs. Clarence Randolph Thompson, however, was an unusually heavy misdemeanor situation. Originally there had been eight counts against C.R., but somewhere along the way the prosecution had lost a w itness. One of the fraud victims had moved to the East Coast in the long interim between the initial complaint and the courtroom encounter.
The jury selection process, began that same day and spilled over into Halloween morning; some thirty prospective jurors were interviewed by both the defense and the prosecution. Gut feelings were considered, snap judgments were made, and choices were eventually narrowed to a cast of twelve San Diego citizens plus an alternate who dispensed their civic chores at ten dollars per diem (recently raised from five dollars) and were not reimbursed for parking fees.
Larry Searles was the first prosecution witness to be called to establish the fact that C.R. had been selling vehicles without being licensed by the DMV. Since all other witnesses were barred from the courtroom during testimony and since no court reporter was present and there were no transcripts of the testimony, it was difficult to learn exactly what had transpired. We witnesses waited in the hallway with our eyes on the clock, conscious of our parking meters running out and conscious of work time we were missing. Yet we were a court of women refusing to be trivialized and, like armies descending from guerrilla hills, using legalese like loaded pistols, we had settled en masse outside the courtroom and were pulling for a swift victory.
It was not swift. A little before noon, a ninety-minute recess was called. Then my son Mark took the stand and didn't finish till 2:00 p.m. When Jo Linda Thompson and Steve Norton, investigator for the city attorney’s office, apologized for the long delay, Mark smilingly commented that it had been a privilege for him to participate in the American Way of Justice — slow! Hallway tension mounted. We were instructed not to get near the jury during recess, not to allow them to overhear any conversations we might have, and even to avoid eye contact with them. C.R. was in the hallway, too, looking extremely fit. Exhibiting no signs of the previous day’s limp, he had apparently made a remarkable recovery from the severe neurological disorder he had suffered. It appeared that his body functions had quickly reassembled themselves for his time in court.
After another delay, I was called to testify and after twenty minutes, a brief recess was called to enable me once again to replenish the parking meter, which had been gobbling two quarters at a clip every two hours since 9:45 a m. It was awesome sitting in the witness box, addressing the court, speaking into a microphone, facing the accused, and being cross-examined by a hostile attorney whose job it was to nit-pick and try to manipulate skeletons in other people’s closets even when there are none. The “adversary” system was clearly at work, even though Judge Kint-ner set a warm, friendly tone. She smiled a lot and clarified.
I finished after 4:00 p.m., subject to recall. Mary Vidana followed and her testimony was continued until the following Monday. Then Officer Meade of the California Highway Patrol testified as to the unsafe condition of the 1974 Vega Mary had purchased from C.R. under false premises, which has become known in legalese not as lying but as “puffing” or “puffery,” a certain amount of which is allowable in a sales pitch. The legal question is where the line is drawn.
Clyde Dukes testified that he had purchased a vehicle from C.R. in July and although he had paid C. R. for the taxes and other transfer-of-title expenses, he still hadn’t received the paperwork. Clyde had been ticketed on more than one occasion for lack of registration, yet somehow C.R. hadn’t managed to turn the tax money over to the DMV, leaving poor Clyde stuck with a vehicle for which he had paid but on which he had no ownership papers.
Peggy Vaca, an employee of the San Diego Union, testified that C.R. Thompson had placed automobile ads in the classified section of the Union. such as this one:
"SAVE" ON GOOD AUCTION CARS.
CALL C.R. 99V-9999 dir.
To prove that he had advertised himself as a dealer. Phyllis Perry, the final witness for the prosecution, related to the court her woeful tale, which had spanned four months. When I returned home late that evening from a meeting, I found that defense attorney Patricia Wallace had left a message with my twelve-year-old daughter Wendy that 1 was to be recalled to the witness stand and should appear the following morning at 10:00 a.m.
I arrived on the second floor of the courthouse at the appointed time and found Larry Searles, who also had been recalled. * 'This is one of the most unusual cases 1 ’ve ever seen,” he confided. “I’ve seen murder cases end quicker than this one. What’s interesting is C.R.’s scrupulous selection of victims. He chose people who had no expertise about cars, didn’t he?”
It was after 10:00 a.m. The judge and jury were there, as well as the witnesses, the prosecutor, and the investigator, but there was no sign of the defendant or his counsel. We were beginning to get restless. The jury was overheard to speculate on a number of possibilities and I heard the phrase “plea bargain” waft through the long corridor. All I thought about, however, was my parking meter. At 10:18 a.m. Patricia Wallace showed up looking anxious. She inquired if anyone had seen C.R. No one had. Then she disappeared into the courtroom and immediately got on the phone.
Approximately fifteen minutes later C.R. ambled down the hallway in a buoyant gait, grinning broadly and joking with his companion-of-the-moment. who was about half his size. The fellow, who turned out to be a cab driver, accompanied C.R. into the courtroom. Patricia Wallace dug into her purse for the money to pay for C.R. 's cab fare and the cab driver left the courtroom counting the bills and stuffing them into his pocket. This scene did not make a hit with the jury.
I was recalled and questioned extensively by Patricia Wallace about my telephone contact with Phyllis Perry over the weekend. When I explained to the court that victimization had caused an instant camaraderie, a sisterhood of sorts, Wallace immediately objected to my use of the term “victim.” Judge Kintner overruled the objection and allowed me to continue to explain that we had exchanged C.R. horror stories. Then the defense attorney attempted to suggest some sort of collusion between Searles and myself against C.R. and tried to indicate that Searles had planted suggestions in my head as to the evil doings of auto dealers, and it had become evident that the defense had been grasping at straws in the wind.
C.R. miscalculated the intelligence of the jury. He took the witness stand in his own defense and assumed the persona of the con man supreme as he explained that his sole income was a medical disability pension from the Marine Corps. Caught in the quagmire of his own verbiage, he proceeded to describe his philosophy of helping people through altruistic missions. Transcending the written and verbal evidence. C.R. said that he had never made a penny from any of the sales and that he envisioned his role not as a salesman or a dealer but as a driver/consultant and he couldn't understand how nine witnesses could bear testimony against him and why these people, whom he was only trying to help, didn’t appreciate his efforts, "especially Phyllis, who was like a member of my family," he said.
Despite the fact that there were no defense witnesses at the outset, Patricia Wallace did manage to dig up a couple of mechanics who seemed a bit confused, according to Steve Norton, but who testified that yes, they had done some occasional smog checks for C.R. but could not identify the vehicles on which these smog checks were done. It seemed hardly relevant. One of the mechanics claimed that he had done some occasional repair work for C.R. The vehicle that victim Angela Edney was eventually forced to junk for fifty dollars was mentioned hut there were no papers and no receipts.
Since none of the jurors was in the market for a good used car. they did not willingly suspend their disbelief, and Wednesday. November 5. auction day at Anaheim. Clarence Randolph Thompson was convicted on five counts of violating California vehicle code # II8CK) — acting as an unlicensed salesman. The jury' was hung (11-1 guilty) on violation of California criminal code #17500, which deals with misrepresentation. None of the victims was present.
Sentencing was scheduled for November 10. the following Monday. C.R. was placed on three years formal probation (both the court and the victims were more interested in restitution than retribution) and was ordered to make restitution as follows: $2000 to Phyllis Perry. $600 to me. $600 to Angela Edney. $1069.60 to Mary Vidana in exchange for the 1974 Vega lemon, and $63 to Clyde Dukes so that the vehicle he had purchased could finally be registered. Although the maximum fine was $500 for each count. C.R. was fined $100 per count, fora total of $500. (The hung jury on the other two counts did not signify acquittal. C.R. can be prosecuted at a later date.)
City prosecutor Jo Linda Thompson had requested that the convicted C.R. cease and desist from selling cars, that his license be revoked, but Judge Kintner said that license revocation was a matter for the DMV to decide, and thus far C.R. Thompson is still licensed to sell automobiles.
A review of probation is set for next Thursday. December II. at which time C.R is obligated to appear to prove that he has made restitution. He has been instructed to bring the money directly to the city attorney s office, and only when those checks clear will the victims be paid.
Meanwhile, the sisterhood of victims has been speculating on whether or not Patricia Wallace collected her fee for nearly forty hours of legal work, including more than four days of court time, or whether she. too, is still waiting around for a good auction car.