“One of our collectors tricked Ms. Lee to come into the dealership,” head collections manager Shirley Hampton-Crittenden later wrote in a court filing.
Better Business Bureau files show that over the last three years, eight other buyers have complained that the Hawthorne dealership used a similar ruse to repossess their cars.
In sworn declarations, Lee said that when employees blocked the Ford in with parked cars, two of her children were trapped in the vehicle for 30 minutes, “becoming increasingly panicked.”
The dealership responded in court papers that no one was in the Ford when it was repossessed.
Ali Awad, president of Repossess Auto's parent company, did not return calls seeking comment.
Lee got the car back after her attorney complained to the Bankruptcy Court. She also sued the dealership seeking at least $250,000 in damages.
The dispute was settled last week. Lee returned the car, and Repossess Auto forgave her loan. It also agreed to pay Lee an undisclosed sum, her attorney said.
Lee is now looking for another car, but said she'll steer clear of Buy Here Pay Here lots.
“I needed a car no matter what,” she said. “They took advantage of that.”
Part two: Why Wall Street is betting on Buy Here Pay Here
Doug Smith, The Times' director of database reporting, contributed to this report